Bury owner Steve Dale has made “limited progress” in his bid to prevent the crisis-hit club going bust, according to the English Football League, but local MP James Frith says a buyer is in place.
Dale has been given until 23.59pm on Friday to either provide proof he can fund the League One side this season or hand it over to someone who can.
The Cheshire-based businessman says he has a buyer lined up but was unsure if a deal could be concluded before the deadline, having also asked fans to pledge money, while Bury North MP Frith says a “credible bid” will be lodged before the deadline along with proof of funding.
— EFL (@EFL) August 23, 2019
With liquidation and expulsion from the league looming, the EFL has said it has seen little sign of a resolution though it is understood a number of offers were awaiting consideration as the deadline loomed.
“As of 5pm there has been limited progress made either by the current ownership providing the required evidence in regard to outstanding financial information, or through a change of control being achieved with new owners,” read an EFL statement.
“The EFL will continue to provide all support available and will keep working to find a resolution to the ongoing issues ahead of the notice of withdrawal deadline, which remains at 11.59pm on Friday August 23.
“If a successful solution is not found ahead of tonight’s deadline, the club’s share in the EFL will be withdrawn and its membership in the league will come to an end.”
The EFL plans to take steps to confirm the club’s position and will provide an update on Saturday but Frith offered some hope when he told Radio 5 Live: “The news I have is that the owners I have been liaising with for several months have got proof of funds and that documentation will be on the way to the EFL and a bid for the club will be made tonight.”
He added: “We’re not over the line by any means but it is a substantive bid that will be made that I am privy to with the proof of funds demonstrated to the EFL. No one can say they didn’t have a credible option.”
As of 8.45pm, Dale told the PA news agency no bid had been received.
Should Dale, Frith or anyone else fail to find a solution, the Shakers will go out of business and become the first club expelled from the league since Maidstone in 1992.
“We have a buyer that’s proceeding. We’re helping him all we can to get it over the line,” Dale told BBC North West earlier on Friday.
“Everyone has asked me to go away, leave the club. If I go, don’t come back and blame me.
“I’m saying I want to see it through because I know what I am doing is right.”
Asked if the takeover could be finalised on Friday, he replied: “I hope so. I can’t speak for somebody else.”
Accrington owner Andy Holt has been sharing information on running a club with an anonymous bidder after being approached by Frith.
This was 10 mins ago. The potentail buyers are using our budgets to get a feel of theirs if a deal is done for @buryfcofficial
Work is going on. It might be too late but 🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞 pic.twitter.com/9PDFodfrvE
— Andyh (@AndyhHolt) August 23, 2019
Dale bought Bury for £1 in December after previous owner Stewart Day ran up huge debts following years of overspending at Gigg Lane.
Having initially claimed to buy Bury for “philanthropic” reasons, Dale put the 134-year-old club into administration this summer and engineered a debt repayment scheme.
The scheme, known as a company voluntary arrangement, would see creditors paid only 25 per cent of what they are owed, with him and his associates being the main beneficiaries.
His plan, however, depended on Bury being allowed to start the season – with a small squad and skeleton staff – and the English Football League handing over the club’s share of its central income.
That, as desperate Bury fans are well aware, has not happened.
On Friday morning, Dale called on supporters and other interested parties to pledge a total of £2.7m to save the club.
Having previously greeted each EFL postponement of a Bury game – five league fixtures and an EFL Cup tie so far this season – with an angry statement on the club website, Dale announced he was willing to listen to offers for the club early last week.
PA understands the EFL wants Dale, or any other Bury owner, to prove they have access to circa £2.8million before they will be allowed to start the season.
This was the amount Dale called on supporters and the local business community to pledge when he was interviewed by talkSPORT on Friday.
Dale’s suggestion that he would be willing to sell prompted a member of the EFL board to contact former Port Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite to see if he would save Bury.
Smurthwaite looked at the club’s finances over the weekend and phoned Dale with his offer on Tuesday – an offer which Dale quickly and robustly rejected.
The funds the EFL wants to see – and what Frith says are in place – are to cover the club’s debts to their current and former players and other clubs of just over £700,000, and the almost £1million they are obliged to pay unsecured creditors, such as the taxman, to meet the terms of July’s CVA, as well as working capital for the season.
If this can be demonstrated, the league will release the withheld funding of just over £500,000.
England women’s team manager Phil Neville revealed that his mother Jill, who had been Bury’s club secretary, resigned from her job on Friday.
The former Manchester United defender, whose late father Neville has a stand named after him at Gigg Lane, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “My mum has worked there for 30 years, my dad’s got a stand named after him and to consider that today they might not have a football club is so upsetting.
“My mum’s devastated. She resigned on Friday because she couldn’t work with the current ownership.”
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has offered his support to Bury, and their beleaguered neighbours Bolton.
The Norwegian said: “The Bolton situation, the Bury situation – it’s hard to keep up with the top if you don’t have the resources.
“Of course, as a local club we want to see our local players do well. We’ve recruited players from those clubs and of course we want them to do well. If there’s anything we can help them with I’m sure we can do that with loan players or anything.”