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Bury FC collapse shows why there need to be stricter club financial regulations in place

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
Timeless

Bury FC captain Neil Danns
Bury FC captain Neil Danns

The devastating blow dealt to fans of Bury Football Club as they saw their club get expelled from the English Football League was best epitomized in the words of their captain Neil Danns,

"For it to happen so suddenly, it’s still really unbelievable. For a club with so much history and that has added so much to the league, for it to just be gone like that is just unimaginable."

Much of the skipper's ire was directed at owner Steve Dale who purchased the club for the paltry sum of a pound in December last year from previous owner Stuart Day in an ostensible bid to steer the club through its financial troubles. But a closer inspection of Dale's proprietorship dealings paint belies his former claims. Indeed, 43 out of the 51 companies Dale has had associations with in the past have been liquidated.

"This should never have happened. If you thought you could not move this club forward in a positive way you should never have taken over because you’ve literally destroyed lives, because that’s what this football club meant to so many fans," remarked Danns in an interview with talkSPORT.

The situation at Bury was so dire that players, coaches and ground staff had been unpaid for seven months. Midfielder Stephen Dawson in a harrowing interview with talkSPORT revealed how the club's predicament has forced him to put his residence on sale.

Bury FC midfielder Stephen Dawson
Bury FC midfielder Stephen Dawson
"I’ve played my whole career and put everything into my house and my kids to give them a start in life when they are 18, whether that be a deposit for a house or money for college."
"I don’t have the fancy cars or the fancy clothes as I was never in a position to earn the thousands and thousands the really good players earn."
“I’ve done it just for my family and myself as I love playing but it’s utterly heartbreaking. How do I say to my little girls that they are going to have to leave the home they grew up in?"
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Steve Dale's apathy towards the club is well documented in an explosive tirade on a local radio show where his insouciance saw him earn the enmity of many fans.

"I never went to Bury. It’s not a place I frequented. So for me to walk away from Bury and never go back is a very easy thing to do. I don’t do anything up there. I didn’t even know there was a football team called Bury to be honest with you.I’m not a football fan." Dale told 5 Live.

Dale recently released a scathing public statement, caustically admonishing his detractors and presenting a vehement and prolix defense of his intentions to assist the club in shedding off its financial improvidence. The owner also duly informed the Bury populace that the club had been expelled only for the duration of the current season and that there was an offer on the table that he was not allowed to disclose on account of league regulations.

Bury Football Club fans protesting against owner Steve Dale
Bury Football Club fans protesting against owner Steve Dale

Dale's apparent financial mismanagement of the club is eclipsed by the inability of the English Football League and the English Football Association to stamp stricter regulatory mechanisms and to closely monitor the situation at these clubs.

It is a well-known observation that Dale flouted League rules to buy Bury, not showing any concrete proof of the presence of tangible funds required to administer the club viably. The EFL despite being aware of this infringement allowed Dale to complete his takeover of the club. Furthermore, owners are not allowed to pump in personal finances into clubs but routinely flout this regulation through loopholes in the form of share investments.

Such financial imprudence allowed Stuart Day to rack in millions on the wage bill on new players, but when his companies faced liquidity, it left Bury's accounts in a ruinous position. Dale picked up just where Day left. Bury Labour MP David Frith brought intense scrutiny to Dale's alleged misdealings with firm RCR Holdings in a bid to hide Day's financial transgressions.

The EFL is undoubtedly remiss in allowing such malpractices to continue. Long from maintaining close-ended communication with the FA, another culprit, the body's efficacy to condone such actions has seen one of the competition's oldest clubs to cease league operations and almost precipitated a similar fate for another club, Bolten Wanderers FC escaped in the nick of time, eventually securing a deal with Football Ventures (Whites Limited).

Even indications by the Bury community of having found prospective owners, in conjunction with Dale's similarly aforementioned claims have not persuaded the body to rescind its decision.

For Dale and the executives of the League, the club might just be a small entity on the face of an Island that houses greats such as Manchester United and Liverpool, but for the residents of Bury, their club meant the world to them.

The tale of Bury is a cautionary one of unscrupulous owners and ignorant regulatory bodies. This is a wakeup call that cannot be written off with callous rhetoric. The FA and the EFL should consider widespread changes to facilitate greater financial transparency and stricter sanctions on violations by owners.

The dreams and dust of the Premier League and the Championship present an enticing picture for the lower tiers of English football, ensnaring owners to take calamitous financial decisions in a bid to climb the ladder and revel in its riches, unaware of the fact that such an action might doom the very institutions of a club and surround it with avaricious reprobates.

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