On the Wednesday morning following Bury’s expulsion from the Football League, the swell of support and sympathy at their plight was all too tangible. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were awash with football supporters offering their condolences to long-standing fans and supporters of one of English football’s oldest clubs. As sad it is to say, the big wheels of the football machine will continue to grind on and the whole affair is likely to be forgotten within a couple of months. However, the situation regarding Bury has wider implications for English football and beyond and the impact will be felt for some time to come.
Current Footballing Regulations Are Useless
In Stewart Day and Steve Dale, Bury had two property magnates at the helm who had little regard for the good of the football club. Whilst the former spoke of plotting Bury’s route to the Championship, the plan was built on an unsustainable model of overspending and high-risk borrowing. As for Steve Dale, his acquisition of the club for £1 and subsequent concession that he wasn’t even aware of Bury FC before he purchased the club speaks volumes about his sporting interest in the venture. The only logical conclusion to be drawn from this is that the “fit and proper persons test” is unfit for purpose. EFL executive chair Debbie Jevans recently conceded that the system needs to be looked at in detail – but stopped short of suggesting any changes to the current test.
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Elite Football Is More Detached Than Ever
It’s fair to say that in the last 20 years or so, the Premier League has existed in its own bubble, immune to parochial concerns. At 2/5 with most Premier League betting, Manchester City are the favourites to retain the Premier League title and will net around £150 million in prize money alone if they do just that. As if that figure isn’t eye-watering enough, the recent Champions League draw reminded us all that there’s around £2 billion in the pot waiting to be divvied out amongst Europe’s top clubs. Whilst local clubs certainly aren’t obliged to help out Bury (or Bolton for that matter), the silence from bigger clubs in the area on the issue is indicative of a wider problem. The bottom line is that most football clubs are self-serving and unless there’s a quick buck to be made, a club closing its doors is of no concern to anyone else. When you consider the number of clubs which may well be teetering on the edge behind the scenes, the situation becomes even more saddening and concerning.
A Necessary Step?
The EFL have recently revealed that they are to consult with other clubs with regards to readmitting Bury into League Two next season. From a neutral standpoint, the EFL are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. After all, you could argue that they are a massive part of the initial problem – due diligence and proper checks would have surely excluded any of the previous owners from taking the reins at the club. At the same time, however, the organisation risks looking weak if they are to back down and overturn their initial decision. As disconcerting as the whole situation is, it may take a club going out of business to send a message about unsustainable borrowing and overspending. However, for Bury fans, it’s simply a case of whether they will have a club to support or not moving forward.