The last thing any English soccer club wants right now is to be mentioned in the same breath as Bolton Wanderers, but Manchester-area League One side Bury are on a similar road to ruin. On August 8, the third-division club was given a two-week deadline to get its finances in order or risk getting kicked out of the English Football League, the body that oversees tiers 2–4 of the country’s league pyramid.
Halfway through that deadline, a local Member of Parliament has called on the two giants of soccer in the city, Manchesters United and City, to help their neighbor club. Ivan Lewis—the Independent MP for Bury South—tweeted out a call for support on Thursday, asking the two very rich clubs to see if they can help save the 134-year-old Bury:
Bury have already had five of their games this season suspended: their first four League One matches, as well as their League Cup fixture against Sheffield Wednesday. If the club can’t prove that it has the financial backing to pay outstanding creditor debts by August 23, it would be kicked out of the EFL, putting its future as an organization in danger.
The problems predated current club owner Steve Dale, who bought the club last December, but have only escalated since. On April 2, Bury admitted that they had not paid players and staff their March salaries. Dale has said that he did not realize how bad the debt problem was when he bought the club, and so he has put the club back on the market.
The sword hanging over Bury’s head comes from a complicated debt agreement called a Company Voluntary Arrangement. Essentially, Bury agreed to pay secured creditors their money back in full, while unsecured creditors would receive 25 percent of what they were owed. The creditors approved the agreement, but so far the club has not upheld the CVA’s terms. That’s why the EFL has stepped in; they first looked for details on a payment plan on July 25, before the decision on August 8 to remove the club if it failed to pay the CVA by August 23.
While Bolton faced administration—a different kind of punishment meant to preserve the club and find new owners—Bury’s potential fate would make it almost impossible to come back from. The survival of one of the oldest clubs in England is at risk, and the clock is ticking.