Bury FC: The Aftermath, Part IV

by | Nov 3, 2019

There is a striking irony at the heart of Bury Football Club, and the way in which its affairs have been handled since the club was expelled from the Football League at the start of September. Steve Dale, who continues to own its carcass, seems considerably more interested in keeping the club now that it is at death’s door than he ever seemed to be when there was a reasonable chance of keeping it alive. Earlier this week, what’s left of Bury survived another winding up hearing at the High Court, when another deferment, this time to the 4th of December, was allowed in order to allow the club to sort out a mess of its own creation in relation to PAYE payments.

The court was told that the club has been paying PAYE, probably since as far back as February in respect of salaries that have not been paid, meaning that the club had paid tax that the taxman was not entitled to. No-one was able to put a figure on the amount of this overpayment, but the club did state that it has paid £7,000 to HMRC towards the amount demanded by the winding up petition.

At the end of the previous week, Dale had issued a bizarre and arguably libellous statement through the club’s official website in which he claimed that “Bury Football Club is not dead as some are asserting and will again be playing football”, that “The winding-up order should never have been issued”, and that “The Club can also confirm it has never been involved or been consulted in recent fundraising allegedly for our Club or indeed has it benefitted from any fundraising by Forever Bury or any other entity, we are unsure where these proceeds go but it isn’t to help Bury Football Club.”

Th implication of the last of those statements is the strangest of all. Forever Bury are raising money to fund the formation of a new football club, not to pay the bills that Dale should have been paying as the owner of Bury, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that they wouldn’t want Dale to come within a thousand miles of the job that they have to do in order to revive the game in the town.

But why would an owner who, by his own admission, wasn’t even aware that Bury had a football club until he was invited to buy it for one pound at the end of last year, now be so interested in keeping it alive, at a point when the likelihood of this version of the club with this ownership being readmitted into the English League System anywhere bar the very bottom couldn’t be much lower? We can only speculate but, unlike Dale, we’re not about making libellous statements in public, around here.

Dale’s snide insinuations regarding Forever Bury’s fundraising haven’t gone unnoticed, of course, but plans are moving on for a new club for the town regardless. James Frith, the MP for Bury North has been in discussion with Capital Bridge Solutions, the company which holds a mortgage of around £3.8m over Gigg Lane, with a view to seeking some form of arrangement to secure the stadium being secured for the town. This is something that all concerned might be forgiven having to hold their noses in order to do.

At the recent Department for Culture, Media & Sport investigation into goings-on at the club, MPs heard that former owner Stewart Day mortgaged Gigg Lane ground with Capital Bridging Finance Solutions for £2.5m at an eye-watering interest rate of 138%. Barry Roth, an accountant and former director of Forever Bury, stated that only 60% of those loans (£1.5m) ‘actually went into to the club’s bank account’. The other 40% (£1m) was, he told the committee, paid as an ‘introductory fee’ for arranging a lower rate of interest for the loan of 7.5%.

Roth was asked by committee chairman Damian Collins who was the beneficiary of the £1m introductory fee. He didn’t know. Collins said the committee would use its powers to ask for a copy of the so far unpublished 2018 accounts for Bury FC. Accounts made up to the 30th May 2018 were due by the 28th February 2019. Small wonder the club’s financial position over the last couple of years has become so murky.

Meanwhile, the groups looking to revive football in the town under a new club are continuing their efforts apace. Different groups are moving towards each other, and plans are already starting to crystallise. The human cost of the collapse and expulsion of the club remains fresh in the mind, as seen last week by this powerful article by Colin Murray about their groundsman, who is still lovingly tending to the pitch at Gigg Lane despite the fact that it isn’t being used for league football this season.

At the moment, Bury supporters need four things. They need unity. Splintering the support at this point will only damage the prospects of a new club. They need money, because setting up a football club can be an expensive business at the best of times, all the more so when it may require a substantial sum of money just to secure anywhere to play. And they need the support of the game’s governing bodies. It would be easy to sweep the body under the carpet and act as though none of the events of the last eleven months or more actually took place, but the bodies that have let the club down so badly over this time period have a moral obligation to smooth a path to a new club, rather than throwing administrative hurdles at them at every opportunity. All concerned have made the right noises when questioned about it. They always do. But the true test of this will come as the new club starts to come to fruition.

More than anything else, though, Bury supporters need Steve Dale to give up this of pretending that the limited company that currently acts as Bury Football Club has any chance of winding back the clock as though the events of the last twelve months simply didn’t happen. He didn’t care about Bury when he bought the club, and we simply don’t believe that he does now. His reputation is already shredded – Google his name in twenty years time and this will be his legacy – but trying to throw a spanner into the plans of those who never invited him into their club and could only stand on the sidelines as he completed the job started by his predecessor. Just leave them alone, Steve. Walk away and go count your money, or something. You’ve done enough damage already.