It is the best of times, it is the worst of times – for Bury FC and for lower league football in general.
On April 30th around 2000 Bury FC fans travelled to Merseyside on a Tuesday night to witness their team clinch promotion to League One in a spirited match away at Tranmere Rovers.
What makes this promotion even more special is the fact the players and backroom staff have been playing and working without pay for weeks now.
The situation has become so bad that fans of Bury FC, and even other clubs, have raised several thousand pounds to donate to backroom staff who need emergency payments to survive. This has included helping long-term loyal staff with crucial family medical issues.
Despite not been paid, the backroom staff have turned up every day to ensure the smooth running of the club.
And on the pitch the footballers have shown a loyalty and passion that is so often missing at the highest level of the game.
In contrast to Premiership footballers, who can earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, players in the lower leagues earn relatively modest wages at the best of times.
The Bury FC squad not only continued to play without wages, they played their hearts out and ensured the club’s promotion for the sake of their own pride and for the fans.
No one witnessing their celebrations or watching the post-match interviews with the manager and players can be left in any doubt about their dedication and professionalism.
The tearful emotion at the final whistle was full of joy, but that joy is tinged with fear and grief that the club may not survive another two weeks.
How has Bury FC ended up in this position?
In what is a footballing stereotype, Bury FC has been used, abused and badly led by a succession of owners who have basked in the limelight, raised expectations beyond reason, spent beyond their means and mortgaged the ground and assets.
The culmination of this means that a winding-up hearing on May 15th could result in the liquidation of the club which has survived 134 years and given pleasure (and pain) to generations of fans.
The club needs to raise a potential £3m to continue to operate.
Owners come and go but it’s the community of fans that make football clubs what they are, and it’s those same fans that are the ones that pay for tickets, buy merchandise, attend functions, and follow and provide vocal support for their players all over the country.
It is also the same fans that suffer and watch powerlessly as their clubs are pulled apart, have their assets stripped, players sold, staff unpaid or sacked, teams relegated or placed in administration – and all because of the egos and overreaching ambition of owners who use the clubs as personal playthings.
There are good and responsible owners of clubs in English Football but our club does not have one of them.
The current owner has publicly admitted he is no longer willing to sustain the club – after just 5 months of ownership – and has put the club, and it’s debts, up for sale.
The fans have been told here are a number of interested parties, and we would like nothing more than a benevolent ‘knight in shining armour’ to come to our rescue but we are realists. We’ve been here before -in fact, we’ve been here too many times.
So what can be done?
The fans of Bury FC are now taking matters into their own hands to try and save the club by making every effort to create a fan-owned Bury FC that has roots in the community, is sustainable, and will live responsibly within its means.
We have already created a fund to help the backroom staff who are facing financial difficulty but we now have bigger plans.
We believe there is a way to break away from the boom and bust of private ownership and have started a campaign to raise £3m – which is an extraordinary ambition but one that shows the lengths true fans will go in support of their club.
This has led to the Buy Our Bury campaign – otherwise known as BOB.
How you can help BOB
We are now asking the wider football family of supporters and others in our community to do what you can to help us.
This is an emergency and every hour counts.
We need every bit of support we can get.
If you support what we are trying to do please:
- Spread this appeal wherever you can among your contacts, friends, workmates and in your social media networks by telling them about www.BuyOurBury.com
- Make a pledge. At the moment we are only asking for pledges, not hard cash. Once we know we have the support we need, we will provide details on how to make your payment. You don’t have to pledge a huge amount – every little bit of support you can give sends a message against irresponsible football ownership
- Send messages of support to the club staff and players at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are all deeply worried about their future and would be cheered up to know that people support them.
- Offer to help. We are all just fans with day jobs and families and need expertise in all sectors you can imagine (finance, marketing, legal, accounting etc)
- Send us your ideas! We know that many of you have been down this route before and might have good ideas and strategies we can use.
Football fans and their communities are much more important than their owners. Bury FC has been around since 1885 – longer than any living person on the planet. And we aim to make sure Bury FC is still here long after we are all gone.
The true custodians of any football club are not the owners but the fans. Only fans can be trusted to manage a club at this level.
We have no illusions or ambitions of being in the Premiership in 5 years time. We have no grand plan or dream to transform Bury FC in to a Manchester United or Real Madrid.
We simply want our beloved Bury FC to survive so our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can enjoy the same pleasure we’ve had by having a local club to support.
Please help us to help our club survive and let’s make this campaign count! The sad story of Bury FC’s mismanagement is replicated in many other clubs.
It’s time for that to change.
It’s time for fans to take control.
It’s time for BOB.