A day that began with the heartwarming sight of fans young and old sprucing up Bury’s Gigg Lane ground in the hope of a match on Saturday ended in tears and despair as the 134-year-old third tier club was expelled from the Football League.
After a takeover bid fell apart just hours before a 5 p.m. local deadline and following an evening of rumours, with hopes of a last-gasp new bid, a communique from the Football League (EFL) at 11:06 p.m. ended the North West club’s 125-year membership of the world’s oldest professional soccer league.
It was, said EFL executive chair Debbie Jevans, “one of the darkest days” for her league.
The same could be said of the North West town which will now be without a club and the local MP Ivan Lewis vowed to take on the soccer authorities, saying he would “leave no stone unturned to get this decision reversed. The fight goes on.”
But with the EFL already explaining how their decision would impact the fixtures list and relegation places, the only way back for Bury looks to be through a new club working its way up from the semi-professional ‘non-league’ structure.
While questions will be asked over the role of Bury owner Steve Dale, his predecessor Stewart Day and the club’s finances, the disappearance of a club with such a long history also raises broader questions about the state of English soccer.
At the same time as announcing the end of Bury as a league club, the EFL gave Bolton Wanderers, another North West club with a more illustrious past, two weeks to complete a sale to a new owner or face the same fate as ‘The Shakers’.
Bolton were a Premier League club just seven years ago and played in the UEFA Cup as recently as 2008 with a team featuring several well-known internationals.
No club has been expelled from the league for 27 years but there is now the risk of a second such departure in just 14 days with Wanderers, four-times FA Cup winners and the club of one of England’s finest players Nat Lofthouse, in danger of becoming the biggest to vanish from the professional game.
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