Recently, representatives from Forever Bury in conjunction with the Rescue Board submitted a Proposal Letter to the EFL setting out our case for readmission of Bury Football Club into the English Football League Two next season.
The letter was prepared following a meeting between Forever Bury and Debbie Jevans late last week when it was suggested Forever Bury submit their arguments in writing. This could then be circulated to the EFL Board Members prior to their scheduled meeting to be held yesterday (Wednesday), when Bury Football Club was to be discussed. Although we have not received a response as of yet, we feel that the supporters of Bury Football Club deserve to see the letter, and this is displayed below.
Dear Ms Jevans,
Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and your colleagues on Thursday 5th September 2019, we feel that the meeting was very productive and allowed us to open a positive and constructive dialogue with the EFL.
This letter will cover:
· our proposal which seeks permission for the club’s readmission to League 2;
· an acknowledgement of the current situation; and
· an overview of the impact of the club’s expulsion from the League on the wider footballing family and community.
Proposal As you are aware, the decision to expel the club from the League has had far reaching social and economic consequences for not only the club and those immediately connected to it, but also for its creditors and the wider community.
In recognition of the urgent need to mitigate the impact of the club’s expulsion, Forever Bury plays a lead role in the town-wide assembled Rescue Board. Chaired by Bury North MP James Frith with fellow members including Ivan Lewis MP for Bury South, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority including the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and Bury Council with the aim of securing the re-admission of the club to League Two next season. This will include an appeal to all 71 clubs and the EFL predicated on new ownership of the club and an appeal to new bidders to come forward.
To this end, the Rescue Board has already successfully opened positive dialogue with Mr Dale and created a framework which we believe will deliver a positive outcome for Bury Football Club by facilitating a sale of Mr Dale’s shares to a party, and on terms, compatible with League membership.
It is intended that a professional, open and transparent process be created. It is envisaged that with the co-operation of Mr Dale, prospective bidders will be provided with the relevant information about both the Club's financial position and stance within the Community in order to allow them to make informed and credible offers.
All offers received will then be assessed by the Rescue Board to determine their credibility and this Group will provide an endorsement to the EFL of appropriate bidders – we would welcome your input into the criteria against which bids are assessed. It is expected that this process will take 6 weeks.
In addition, with a view to ensuring that Bury and its supporters do not end up in a similar position to where we find ourselves today, it is our intention to request that any prospective purchaser of the club enter into a shareholders’ agreement with Forever Bury, as the second largest shareholder, to include protective provisions including:
· a right of pre-emption on the majority shares for Forever Bury;
· the right of Forever Bury to have at least 1 member on the board of directors;
· a right of access to club financial information / management accounts for Forever Bury;
· a minimum shareholding of 10/15% for Forever Bury which cannot be diluted without agreement; and
· provisions for the automatic transfer of the majority shares should the owner or his nominee:
o cease to be a director (and a reverse provision providing for the majority shareholders resignation as a director in the event of the sale of his shares by automatic transfer or otherwise);
o fail to pass the fit and proper person test;
o is found guilty of any criminal or civil offense; or
o becomes mentally or physically unfit to run the club.
In the event that a prospective purchaser had not passed the fit and proper person test we would also request that upon the completion of a successful bid that they grant an option over their shares to Forever Bury. It is envisaged that the trigger for the option would be the owner’s failure to pass the fit and proper test with the amount payable for the shares should Forever Bury chose to exercise the option being fixed at a pre-agreed price. This would ensure that the club was not left with an ownership incompatible with League membership.
We would also be looking for a prospective purchaser to agree to have a plan in place to successfully deliver the CVA inject a pre-agreed amount of funding into the club immediately upon acquiring the shares to satisfy all post CVA liabilities to ensure creditor action cannot be taken against the club.
Should a prospective purchaser come forward that has the Rescue Board’s support, we would look to work with Mr Dale to facilitate a sale of his shares within the agreed framework.
We recognise that in order to secure re-admission of the club to the League that the EFL will have a number of requirements that must be met. We would be grateful if you would confirm as a matter of urgency exactly what criteria the EFL would require the club to meet, together with any applicable timeframes, to secure the club’s re-admission to League Two next season in addition to the following:
· the club to be under new ownership;
· all football creditor debts to be paid in full;
· other debts settled or renegotiated under new repayment terms;
· proof of funding in place for season 20/21; and
· owner of the club to have passed the EFL owners and directors test.
It is our proposal that re-admission of the club to the League is made under Regulation 11 which provides a mechanism for the EFL Board to admit a club to the League in the event the number of member clubs falls below 72 and for that club to play in League Two in its first season following its successful admission.
Without prejudice to the above, we understand that the Board of the EFL has called a meeting of the 71 remaining members of the League to vote on the issue of the club’s re-admission to League Two next season and we welcome this decision.
It can’t be underestimated the impact that the resubmission of Bury into League 2 will have on the ability to attract buyers for this historic club.
We, as the official Supporters’ Trust of Bury Football Club, recognise the difficult decisions that the EFL have faced over the last few months. We acknowledge that over the years Bury Football Club owners have spent money that the club simply did not have. Frustratingly, as a Supporters’ Trust we have had no choice but to stand by as spectators and watch unscrupulous owners gamble the future of the club and ultimately, destroy 134 years of history in the process.
Everyone must understand and acknowledge that the current situation is a lose - lose scenario for every stakeholder in the game, from football governance and members, to the supporters of all clubs across the country.
This decision will set a precedent and therefore all clubs will need to consider if the response is proportionate and strikes the right balance.
A precedent has now been set where clubs have no protection from unprincipled owners who are free to gamble and play with the future of their football clubs; it’s a situation which could happen to any one of the remaining 71 members of the football league. Yes, lessons need to be learned from this, but safeguards need to be in place before the event happens not afterwards to ensure that no other club becomes the victim of a system which is open to abuse as so clearly and catastrophically illustrated in Bury’s case.
Impact on wider footballing family and community
The expulsion of the Club from the League has had wide ranging social and economic consequences that reach much further than the club itself, affecting not only the local community but also the wider football family in ways which the Board may not have been made aware of at the time the decision to expel Bury from the League was made. Appendices 1 & 2 are impact statements from two supporters.
The club under the current management, and as a result of its consequential expulsion from the League, has been decimated with the loss of the following: · 35 Permanent staff including coaches and office staff. This does not include playing staff.
· 15 contractors and or casual workers.
· 140 youth players ranging from 8 years old through to 16 years old.
· 16 recently signed scholars, all of which are now free to sign for other clubs.
Many employees have not been paid in several months and thus have been severely financially disadvantaged as a direct result of the actions of the owner.
We urge you to look at Appendices 3 & 4 which are statements of impact from current staff members.
Bury has had an extremely successful youth system for several years. Over the last six years the Club has generated in the region of £2 million pounds in transfer fees for academy players, scholars and pro players that have come through our Academy and been coached by our staff. The decision made has inevitably meant the youth academy sadly no longer operates. Again, dedicated staff have lost their jobs and 140 young men have had their education and futures put in doubt as they desperately seek new clubs. We have included a detailed impact statement from Jill Neville (Company Secretary) in Appendix 5 that explains in detail the tragic repercussions.
In the community, numerous local businesses are looking at significant losses to their income, whilst the economic repercussions on the town overall are obvious due to the loss of business for local traders and suppliers and the inevitable loss of visitors from away teams. Please turn to Appendices 6, 7 & 8 that set out impact statements from local businesses that have suffered as a direct result of the club not playing any football so far this season.
The clubs expulsion from the League in the middle of the CVA term has also meant that as matters stand, there is no possibility of the CVA succeeding which will have significant consequences for the numerous CVA creditors.
We would also draw your attention to Appendix 9 which illustrates the owner’s approach.
The Rescue Board is committed to working with the EFL to secure the club’s return to League Two next season and we hope that this letter is the start of an open dialogue between us to achieve this.
We trust that the Board will consider the representations made herein in good faith and in particular the impact statements provided which illustrate the need for the repercussions of the club’s expulsion to be mitigated quickly by its return to League football next season.
We should be grateful if you would ensure that copies of this letter are made available to all Board members and tabled for discussion at tomorrow’s meeting.
Please note that we are happy to make a representative available to answer any questions that the Board may have and we should be grateful if you would revert at the earliest opportunity following the meeting of the Board.
Forever Bury – Supporters Trust
James Frith – MP for North Bury
Ivan Lewis – MP for South Bury
Andy Burnham – Mayor of Greater Manchester
David Jones – Leader of Bury Council