Bury FC expelled from the Football League: Why has this happened and how is the league now structured?

Gigg Lane
Gigg Lane

The EFL have confirmed that Bury have been expelled from the league following a failed late takeover attempt from C&N Sporting Risk.

The Shakers failed to meet repeated requests from the league to provide proof of source and sufficient funding, which has led to drastic action being taken.

Bury have become the first Football League side to drop out of the league since Maidstone United, who were liquidated, in 1991/92.

But why has this happened and what happens next for both the club and the league structure? Tom Carnduff explains...


Why has this happened?

Bury celebrate promotion to Sky Bet League One
Bury were promoted from Sky Bet League Two less than four months ago

Steve Dale bought the club in December 2018 for a fee of £1 from previous owner Stuart Day. However, following due diligence, he expressed that the financial situation at Gigg Lane was worse than he had expected.

That led to numerous months where players and staff were not getting paid. Despite that, Ryan Lowe led the club to a remarkable promotion from Sky Bet League Two.

From the summer onwards, the EFL have repeatedly asked Dale and Bury to provide proof of sufficient funding which has not happened.

The EFL originally set the Notice of Withdrawal deadline for Friday August 23. However, this was extended following a late approach from C&N Sporting Risk.

The London-based sports analytics company was set up by former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell's son Rory Campbell and former Barnet caretaker manager Henry Newman, who met while scouting for West Ham.

With just 90 minutes left before the deadline, C&N confirmed that they would be unable to proceed with their takeover on the club.

They said: "We are grateful to the EFL for the short extension they granted to us so that we could continue with due diligence, and for their acceptance of our proof of funds capable of mounting a credible takeover. This has been worked on around the clock by our team and advisors for the past 72 hours.

"As part of our due diligence, we set ourselves a list of key criteria regarding the CVA, the ground and the overall financial state of the club that had to be met in order for us to be satisfied that we have enough knowledge to proceed with the takeover. The complexities involved in each of these matters escalated and continue to do so.

"It is therefore with regret that we have decided not to proceed with the takeover of Bury FC. This decision has not been taken lightly. We fully understand the importance of the club to the community and it is with this in mind that we have informed the EFL of our decision at the earliest possible opportunity."


What games were called off?

Bury's Gigg Lane
The EFL were 'frustrated at the lack of significant progress' at Bury
  • Milton Keynes Dons (H)
  • Accrington (A)
  • Sheffield Wednesday (A) - Carabao Cup first round
  • Gillingham (H)
  • Rotherham (A)
  • Tranmere (A)

In total, Bury had seen six of their games called off. They were handed a 12-point deduction at the start of the campaign following the approval of a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA).

Prior to today's announcement, the EFL had already said that Sheffield Wednesday had been awarded the Carabao Cup first round tie which was scheduled to take place between the two clubs earlier this month.


How does the league work now?

The Sky Bet League One trophy
Sky Bet League One will now feature 23 teams

Bury's record for the 2019/20 season has been expunged, meaning that every team will now only play 44 games instead of 46.

League One also now becomes a 23-team competition - as opposed to the traditional format of 24 teams.

Due to Bury not playing a game, there is no direct impact on current points tallies and no adjustment to the league standings above Bury's previously-occupied 24th spot.

This season, only three teams will be relegated from England's third tier. That means that, as usual, those who finish in 21st, 22nd and 23rd will all drop down a division.

In League Two, four teams will still be promoted - the top-three automatically and a play-off winner - to ensure that League One remains at 24 teams for the 2020/21 campaign.

The EFL have said that they will meet in September in regards to the impact this will have on League Two going forward.


What about Bolton?

Bolton's future is still in doubt
Bolton have also been forced to postpone games

Sadly, Bury aren't the only club in this situation. Bolton were also set a deadline of 5pm on Tuesday.

Reports say that those involved were optimistic that a deal with Football Ventures could be repaired after it collapsed over the weekend.

With the deadline not being met, the EFL have lifted the suspension on their Notice of Withdrawal. The administrators now have a period of time to successfully conclude a change of control or provide sufficient evidence that they are in a position to fund the club for the remainder of the 2019/20 season.

Wanderers have 14 days, a similar situation that was placed upon Bury.

However, administrator Paul Appleton recently said that if there is no breakthrough "the process of closing down the company will commence on Wednesday".

"In just over 24 hours, the club will have its membership of the EFL revoked," said Appleton in a statement.

"Over and above that, the club is currently not in a position to carry on trading and, as such, the process of closing down the company will commence on Wednesday.

"This will ultimately lead to its liquidation, the expulsion of the club from the EFL and the inevitable loss of over 150 jobs.

"More than that, it will devastate a community for whom the football club is a beacon of hope and expectation.

"I reiterate, unless there is a change of position from any of the parties involved, the process of closing down the club and ultimately placing Bolton Wanderers into liquidation will begin this week."


Full EFL statement

Fans protest outside of Gigg Lane
Fans protested outside Gigg Lane

The EFL Board met earlier this evening and, after a long and detailed discussion, determined that Bury FC’s membership of the English Football League be withdrawn after the deadline passed at 5pm today (Tuesday 27 August) without a successful resolution.

Despite repeated requests to its owner Mr Dale over a sustained period of time, the necessary evidence in respect of how the Club would meet its financial commitments, has simply not been provided and, as a result, attentions turned to securing new ownership at the Club.

At its meeting on 24 August 2019, the Board agreed a short extension to 5pm today (Tuesday 27 August) to enable Mr Dale and the Club to explore the possibility of a proposed sale with C&N Sporting Risk Limited, with Mr Dale having accepted their offer. Following due diligence, C&N Sporting Risk Limited opted not to pursue its interest.

Therefore, having fully considered all available options, including a number of late expressions of interest provided to the EFL, the EFL Board has unanimously determined with enormous regret that Bury’s membership be withdrawn.

The EFL Board had maintained that there could be no further suspensions to the fixture list and that these ongoing concerns and the integrity of the competition were a significant factor in the decision.

Recent events have highlighted how decisions taken at Bury FC over the last few seasons have caused the Club and individuals close to it significant financial distress and there are a number of matters which, in our view, will require further investigation.

League One will now comprise of 23 Clubs for the remainder of the campaign and relegation places in the division reduced to three, which will result in a full complement of 24 Clubs in 2020/21. A discussion will take place with EFL Clubs on the consequential impact in League Two when Clubs next meet in September 2019.

Debbie Jevans CBE, EFL Executive Chair, said: “Today is undoubtedly one of the darkest days in the League’s recent history. The EFL has worked determinedly and tirelessly to avoid this outcome and it is with a heavy heart that this situation has been forced upon us.

“The EFL has to place the integrity of our competitions at the heart of every decision we make, and we simply cannot allow this unacceptable situation to continue or countenance the prospect of postponing further fixtures.

“I understand this will be a deeply upsetting and devastating time for Bury’s players, staff, supporters and the wider community. There is no doubt today’s news will be felt across the entire football family.

“No one wanted to be in this position but following repeated missed deadlines, the suspension of five League fixtures, in addition to not receiving the evidence we required in regard to financial commitments and a possible takeover not materialising; the EFL Board has been forced to take the most difficult of decisions.”


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