The situation faced by supporters of Bury FC is a result of extremely poor stewardship of the club, allowed by the inadequate governance of the game.
The EFL have admitted that they ‘had their doubts’ about Steve Dale’s takeover of Bury but it was still permitted under its current self-regulatory regime.
That decision and the passive disregard for the overspending of the previous owner Stewart Day have created a situation where FA Cup winning, 134-year-old Bury are on the brink of extinction.
Now the debts accumulated under the profligate ownership of Stewart Day are being used by current owner Steve Dale to hold the club to ransom.
The FSA has been providing support to Bury supporters for some months now and we met with Bury supporters yesterday to hear the latest updates on efforts to save the club.
Once again, we offered the continued support of our staff resource and solidarity of the FSA’s wider membership. Sadly, without a credible buyer and willing seller the club may not see out the next 24 hours.
Football needs owners who are ambitious, but that ambition should not be allowed to threaten the very existence of the clubs themselves. The football authorities and in this case the EFL have to take their own share of the blame. Every club in League One is suffering due to the inadequate self-regulation provided by the EFL. Those very same clubs have collective responsibility for their own inaction.
In 2017, the EFL consulted its clubs on tightening up regulations around owners, described on the EFL’s own website as a ‘review of Owners Conduct’ to specifically “address some of the reputational issues facing the EFL and its Clubs.”
This included “the adoption of a new policy in circumstances where it is considered appropriate to take direct action against individuals who fail to meet the standards that are expected of them under the Regulations”.
The policy outlines that it should be reserved for the following circumstances:
- A very serious single act or persistent serious acts.
- Relating to the operation of an EFL football Club.
- Where the individual’s conduct is clearly damaging to the standing and reputation of the wider profession and the game of football.
This policy was due to be put to the EFL Board back in July.
The FSA welcomes the statement made by EFL Executive Chair Debbie Jevans yesterday when she said: “What we need to do is understand how this happened, we have got to go around the clubs and ask them how we can make this better. The owners and directors test shows that a person can run a business in company law but we need to look at what we can do outside of that.”
The FSA has been working for some time on proposals for more effective regulation and preventative measures in football and would welcome the opportunity to be involved in this process of improving the EFL’s regulatory regime. Supporters can make a vital contribution to reform.
Our proposals, which have also been presented to the FA Board, would prevent the situations that we see at Bury, Bolton Wanderers, and other clubs facing similar jeopardy. These proposals have been drafted in the light of the agonising experience of our members and football fans across the country over many years.
The clubs themselves have demonstrated an inability to take collective action against the likes of Steve Dale and in doing so highlighted the FSA’s demand for robust regulation independent of the clubs and leagues.
Once the dust has settled it will be Bury supporters left to pick up the pieces.
Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this article.