Bury FC: The Aftermath, Part III
So, earlier on this afternoon we posted a piece on what has been going on at Bury since the club was expelled from the Football League at the start of September. It didn’t take long for events to overtake us, though. The club was due at the High Court in London on Wednesday regarding a winding up petition brought against it by HMRC, but with an anonymous bidder understood to be interested in purchasing the wreckage that the club has become, there was a degree of hope that the winding up order could be deferred in the hope of getting the club into some sort of condition to play next season in either the National League North or the National League.
A “new” (or phoenix) club would be required to start next season at Step Five of the non-league game which, in the case of Bury, would mean the Premier Division of the North-West Counties League, as far from League Two as the National League is from the Premier League. There had been discussion as recently as the end of last week between James Frith, the MP for Bury North, and the Football Association regarding the question of whether returning at the higher level would be possible, and headlines over the weekend offered the tinry glimpse of optimism that the club’s supporters will have witnessed in a very, very long time indeed.
Late this afternoon, though, came a hammer-blow for these hopes when it was confirmed that the potential bidder for these remains has dropped out, meaning that Forever Bury, the club’s supporters trust, can no longer see any justification for opposing the winding up petition brought against it. Their statement reads as follows:
We regret to inform the supporters of Bury Football Club that the interested party who has been working with Forever Bury on a proposed bid to buy the club has confirmed this is no longer a viable prospect for them.
As matters have unfolded and the necessary due diligence has been undertaken, the complex, complicated and financially distressed situation at Bury Football Club has resulted in their decision to stand back from further discussions.
Resulting from this news, Forever Bury will not now be putting forward a legal defence against the HMRC winding up petition on Wednesday 16th October 2019, as we believe there is no longer adequate evidence to suggest a meaningful case could be made.
We will update you further as developments unfold.
In short, the default position for a civil court claim raised is that judgement will be awarded if there is no defence raised. The winding up petition would require some form of legal opposition to it in order to prevent it from being converted into a winding up order, and the only defence against that happening seems to have now evaporated. Despite the fact that this has been hanging over the club for a few weeks, there is something heartbreaking about the announcement that this time the affliction would appear to be terminal.
This, however, doesn’t mean the death of Bury, and what is critical at this time is that everybody keeps that in the forefront of their minds. It would be easy to funearlise the events that are likely to follow this week but, whilst mourning is understandable – and perhaps for many will be necessary – the future now stretches out, and that future can belong to all of the supporters of the club, if this is what they decide that they want. Gigg Lane may well be mortgaged to hell and back, but it’s still listed as an Asset of Community Value, and may need to be dealt with accordingly. It is to be hoped that the club, the community, the local authorities and others can come together in order to put forward a proposal that saves the ground. Football grounds are much more than just a space where matches are played every week, and the fact that they don’t have enough protection under statute doesn’t alter that.
Perhaps more than it ever even did while they were playing, what Bury need now is support, and for those in a position to be able to potentially effect change to not walk away now because any club starting next season will be likely to be a new club. Should you wish to make a donation towards the new club, you can do so through this GoFundMe. A football club for Bury can be reborn, even if it seems insurmountable at present, but it will require a lot of work on the part of a lot of different groups in order to make it so. If, as now seems as close to certain as possible, Bury Football Club has to die as a legal entity at the High Court on Wednesday, then let its legacy be a new club which carries the tradition and history of its forebearer, but which understands that the greatest gift that it can ever give its supporters is its continuing existence.