It wasn’t very long ago that I used to watch Bournemouth and I through loose change into buckets outside Dean Court when it looked as if the club might lose league status. Now AFC Bournemouth is a Premier League success story and one of the glamour destinations for overseas players.
The same cannot be said for Bolton or Bury. Last night Bury were expelled from the football league and a thousand die-hards who had bought season tickets in the expectation of league one football season, will never take their seats. Ironically, I swapped allegiance from Bournemouth to Yeovil and Yeovil exited the EFL – with Bury one of the teams that pushed them down.
I was on the Yeovil Town Facebook page last night, no-one was posting anything but sympathy for Bury fans , there was no recrimination against Bury FC for over-spending at Yeovil’s expense. There was simply fan to fan sympathy. Yeovil and Bury are the unloved un-glamorous clubs that live in the shadow of Bournemouth and Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool.
People who talk about football clubs as businesses, miss this. Football clubs, especially lower league football clubs – are embedded in the towns they represent. Football clubs are also resolutely working class, compare south western rugby to south western football and you see what I mean.
And what is going on at Bury, at Bolton and at many small town clubs like Yeovil is very socially divisive. The white hot fury of Maureen (clip )which I listened to on the radio, was the reaction of a woman who had been let down by the EFL and it was clear she felt personally abandoned not just by the man who bought Bury FC for a pound, but the English Football League that let him.
The FT have now investigated the circumstances that led to the EFL considering the club’s finances unsustainable; sadly it is the usual tale of property speculation from mysterious companies with no interest in football, follow the link for details
The comparison is there with BHS but it is a weak comparison, BHS was a business and Bury FC is a community. It may have overspent but that is not the community’s fault. People have got re-employment since the collapse of BHS, stores have been re-let and the trade re-allocated accross retail, but you cannot replace the 134 years of history at Bury FC with a plastic reincarnation. #RIPBury.
Bury and Bolton – like Yeovil, are places you stay in because of deep-rooted history. The man who’s brother’s ashes are buried under Gigg Lane won’t be able to drive down from Morecambe once a fortnight to watch the game with him. The people who run the market stalls won’t get the Saturday boost of trade from visiting fans. There will be no more coaches leaving the ground for away fixtures, no more romance of the cup. For Bury FC (as we know it) that’s it.
It was different for Bournemouth, they had an oligarch to bail them out (the reason that I swapped teams). Bournemouth stopped being a football team and became a franchise of one man’s financial empire.
Bolton and Bury won’t attract oligarchs, which – to the EFL – makes them unviable. Yeovil may never recover their football league status – but there are worse things than that, as their fans acknowledged on social media yesterday.
Every football fan should share Maureen’s white hot fury at the fate of Bury FC. It should not have happened, it was preventable and – even if Bury were like Yeovil – out of the EFL through demotion, they would still be playing on a Saturday. That privilege has been denied the club and their fans and that is not right. The Bury fans deserve more, so does the town, this cartoon from David Squires is spot on.