Bury: Minutes to Midnight
Summer 1976 and I’m gathered around a bed with my mum and my eleven-year-old sister, watching my dad, full of tubes, breath slower and slower.
The priest has just given him the last rites, the consultant has just explained he’s done all he can, my mum is weeping, I’m holding my sister’s hand.
Even then I was obsessed with numbers and I’m staring at the heart rate monitor, watching it count down and hoping for a miracle*.
Very sad you might say, but why the melodrama, and what the Dickens has this got to do with Bury football club?
Emotional blackmail this isn’t though, Bury fans are watching their own life support machine run down as the EFL have set a final, final, final, final deadline of 5pm on Friday in terms of the club’s existence.
Down at Gigg Lane fans have been consuming rumours, counter-rumours and website pronouncements as owner Steve Dale has blamed everyone (apart from himself) for the potential demise of the club.
A look at the club’s accounts in recent years shows that Bury have been living beyond their means for some time, but that doesn’t give the full explanation as to why they, and not one of perhaps a dozen or more clubs in the lower leagues, are facing extinction.
Losses in recent years accelerated following previous owner Stewart Day’s ambition being based on his other businesses being successful and underwriting Bury’s day to day losses.
Except those other businesses weren’t successful and Day’s Mederco, which, depending on your viewpoint was either a daydreamer’s folly or a Ponzi scheme, went into administration with Bury owing Mederco nearly £4.3 million according to the most recent published accounts dated 31 May 2017.
In the most recent administrator’s report Mederco’s debt from Bury had ballooned to £7.1 million and may have allowed Steve Dale to force through the Creditors Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) that allows him to still run the club on a day to day basis.
Strictly Bury’s biggest creditor per the CVA is due to a company called RCR Holdings, which was formed on 16 July 2019, but apparently was owed £7.1 million by Bury on 18 July 2019, when the CVA proposal was forced through.
A minimum of 75% of all creditors in terms of the value of the sums due must vote in favour for a CVA for it to be accepted, and with RCR Holdings debt being so large it meant that 84% of all creditors were in favour.
Who is in charge of RCR is a mystery, the director is listed as Kris Richards an identical creditor claim of £7.1 million from Steve Dale has been conveniently ignored by Steven Wiseglass, the person in charge of the CVA, RCR paid £70,000 for the £7.1 million debt.
An adjustment is made in terms of approving a CVA if a connected party to the business ownership is a creditor to them, and if these debts are excluded there still must be at least 50% of creditors in favour of the CVA.
Not voting for the CVA was HMRC, due over £1 million by Bury, who had been petitioning for the club to be wound up due to Steve Dale’s refusal to pay PAYE and NI contributions, as well as failing to pay the wages of players and staff on a regular basis since February.
Kind words are few and far between for Dale, who bought Bury for £1 in December 2018 and has had a string of former companies dissolved in recent years, leading to accusations of being an asset stripper.
Perhaps the most damning indictment of Dale comes from his running of the company Terrapin Limited where workers went unpaid and Steve Dale washed his hands of any responsibility.
Under Dale’s reign at Bury two new companies were created in the first few days as Bury FC Leisure Limited and Bury FC Heritage Limited.
Fearing bailiffs acting on behalf of creditor taking Bury’s assets is the reason that Dale has given for the creation of these companies, who apparently have had some of the football club’s assets transferred to them.
Football clubs aren’t attractive to regular banks as they rarely make profits, which perhaps explains why Bury took out a loan from Broad oak Finance Limited recently
In addition, The Guardian’s football finance sleuth David Conn uncovered the club had borrowed money whilst Stuart Day was in charge and interest was clocking up at 138% a year.
No one seems to have much knowledge of Capital Bridging Finance Solutions although a look at its accounts reveals that it owns a property development subsidiary company…and now has a loan secured on Gigg Lane.
Where does this leave Bury? The club was poorly run by Stewart Day originally, with wages exceeding income as he tried to buy success for the club.
Steve Dale inherited a mess, but unlike Andy Holt at Accrington and Mark and Nicola at Tranmere, took the club backwards rather than forwards.
His beratement of the EFL, staff at the club, fans and others who have queried his decisions has alienated the whole of the fanbase and anyone who had goodwill towards him.
The EFL, whose reputation plummeted during the leadership of Shaun Harvey, is under resourced and unable to do much apart from implore Steve Dale to show he has the means to fund the club, which to date he claims to have done but this is at odds with the EFL’s reading of the situation.
Using a disgraced insolvency practitioner to conduct Bury’s CVA has not helped Dale’s cause either. Steven Wiseglass has twice been found guilty of misconduct in recent years by his governing bodies, who usually are reluctant to discipline their members. This allows critics to claim that the insolvency practitioner is in Steve Dale’s pocket, although there is no hard evidence to support this viewpoint.
The representative of RCR Holdings at the CVA meeting, has also been before the beak in relation to prior behaviour and has appeared with Tommy Robinson in the past. Again there is nothing wrong in employing whoever you choose to represent you, but given the high profile nature of Bury’s current position it opens people to criticism.
Back to 1976 and my old man miraculously survived that summer. He had no interest in football, but knowing I was mad on the subject the last thing we did together as dad and lad was to go to a match at the Goldstone Ground. I still cherish that day, and for many families football provides a bond and memories that cover generations.
Steve Dale also has no interest in football but has the power to allow similar memories and bonds to take place between families friends and generations for the regulars of Gigg Lane.
For the sake of those good people and the sake of our national game, do the right thing Steve and let the club live.
Excellent well researched article, would I be correct to concur that total debt liability is over
No one knows the true figure Steve as only some of the debts are covered by the CVA.
Fantastic research, but how it must have ‘hurt’ you as the enormity of ‘Bury’s’ debts became apparent.
I’m a Doncaster Rovers supporter & I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about ‘The Richardson Years’ when the club ended up in the Conference. Richardson was jailed when evidence found at the scene showed he had been guilty of burning the Main Stand down in order to claim back on the insurance.
Thank goodness we had a saviour waiting to take the reins in John Ryan. A self made millionaire & a Rovers fan. When he took over the club Richardson had made sure (through his ‘henchman’ Mark Weaver) that Belle Vue was stripped bare. No nets, no kit, no balls not even a corner flag was left.
Ian Snodin (ex player of Rovers, Leeds & Everton) was given the managers role. We had 4 professionals left on the books, so Ian’s first task was to call up ‘old colleagues’ in order to cobble a team together. We had no pre season training let alone games. Our first game in the Conference was away against Dover Athletic. The Rovers mini bus picked up their players at agreed meeting points along the way, most meeting their team mates for the very first time. We lost 1-0.
Five long years later we were promoted back into the Football League as winners of the play offs.
I wish Bury FC all the luck in the world for the future. Take heart from AFC Wimbledon’s ‘come back’.
Never give in.
I think we can all guess what he didn’t major in.