The deadline came and went, and now one of England’s oldest soccer clubs has been kicked out of the English Football League. Bury had been on the ropes financially for the majority of this year, and with neither a sale nor a proof of financial stability coming through before Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, the EFL has stripped them of their membership.
The trouble for Bury started even before current owner Steve Dale bought the club for £1 back in December, but his tenure accelerated the breakdown of the 125-year-old relationship between the Manchester club and the EFL. Salaries weren’t paid, matches had to be suspended or cancelled, and finally, after Dale either refused or was unable to sell the club despite reportedly receiving a handful of bids, the EFL made the decision to expel them from the English soccer pyramid (the EFL controls the second, third, and fourth division in the country).
Dale was unusually candid in the lead-up to the Tuesday deadline, essentially shrugging his shoulders at the whole thing in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live:
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.
After a takeover bid by sports consulting firm C&N Sporting Risk fell through at the last minute, it was all just a matter of time before the club would receive the grim news of expulsion. While this isn’t necessarily the end of the club, their road towards normalcy is arduous: the club can apply for membership next season, although they would start from a much-lower position on the soccer pyramid. It’s a long hard climb, and if Dale or any prospective owners don’t have the stomach for it, the club could just as well be liquidated.
Prior to the deadline, Bury fans had made their way to the club’s home ground, volunteering to clean it up in case the club survived until the weekend, when they were scheduled to play Doncaster Rovers. The clean-up turned into a vigil, with BBC Radio Manchester’s Mike Minay reporting that some fans “walked away in instant tears, some crouching down to the floor” upon hearing the news of the expulsion.
Meanwhile, Bolton Wanderers—the other club that was facing expulsion on Tuesday—were given a two-week extension on their deadline, as talks are progressing on a possible takeover bid that would save them from Bury’s fate. Whether the takeover happens is anyone’s guess, but unlike their Manchester counterparts, at least Bolton still have a fighting chance to save over a hundred years of soccer history.