Bury could take a crucial step towards reinstatement into the English Football League at a pivotal meeting of the 71 member clubs on Thursday.
The former League One outfit was expelled last month after a last-ditch takeover bid collapsed.
Earlier this week a group trying to rescue Bury submitted a proposal for “compassionate re-entry” to League Two.
But opening the door to readmission is just one of a number of options that the EFL’s remaining clubs will discuss,
Road to rescue?
Attendees at the meeting in Milton Keynes – which will also cover a range of other topics – will be asked to vote on three courses of action in the wake of Bury’s demise:
- To remain at 71 members
- To return to 72 members, with the club finishing second bottom in League Two receiving a reprieve, and just one club promoted from the National League
- Or, to return to 72 members with either the runner-up in the National League also promoted – or with another club added, eg Bury
If there is an indication that the reinstatement of Bury is the preferred option, and a change in the league’s regulations is therefore required, a board meeting will be called and then another general meeting will take place three weeks later.
At that stage, a formal vote would be required at which 50% of all the clubs and 50% of the Championship would need to back reinstatement.
The BBC understands the rescue bid is strongly opposed by most League Two clubs, one of which will be relegated if Bury are readmitted, and now hangs in the balance.
If Bury’s bid is rejected, they will have to apply to the Football Association for a place in non-league football.
Bury’s 125-year membership of the Football League was ended after a proposed takeover bid from C&N Sporting Risk collapsed over what it described as “systemic failings” they could not overcome. By then their first five league games of the season had been cancelled after failing to provide documentation proving they had the required funds to last the season.
However, the ‘Bury FC Rescue Board’ – backed by the supporters’ trust, local MPs, the Greater Manchester Mayor and local authorities – has now sent a proposal to the EFL pleading for reinstatement, containing confirmation of ‘active bidders’ and a signed statement from owner Steve Dale vowing to sell the club.
But the club’s fate now rests in the hands of the member clubs.
The EFL has been heavily criticised for its handling of crises at both Bury and also at Bolton, which narrowly escaped liquidation last month, and for governance regulations that allow owners to purchase clubs before showing proof of funds.
A comprehensive financial sustainability review has been announced, and a group of MPs are holding a hearing this autumn into the role the EFL plays in safeguarding clubs.
Last month, Bury said it was “actively considering” legal action against the EFL for not considering late bids for the club, and the “unfair” expulsion.
Clubs attending Thursday’s meeting will also be asked to endorse the board’s recommendation of former Premier League and Liverpool FC chief Rick Parry as the EFL’s new chairman.
If approved, the decision would need final ratification at a general meeting, when acting chair Debbie Jevans will step down and return to being a non-executive director.
Parry’s arrival – and the further appointment of a new chief executive – come at a crucial time for the EFL, and after a turbulent few months with some Championship clubs still considering pursuing a breakaway if their deep-seated grievances over the handling of a new £595m Sky TV deal are not addressed.
Despite the EFL pointing to the certainty of a five-year deal that secured a 35% increase on the previous deal, the rebel clubs believe it was signed without them being properly consulted, chronically undervalued their TV rights and undermined their attempts to develop their own streaming services. The gulf in broadcasting revenues when compared to the Premier League continues to be a source of tension and resentment.
Meanwhile, Middlesbrough are also set to sue the EFL for allegedly failing to uphold their financial rules with regards to the Derby County owner’s purchase of Pride Park.
The EFL is to conduct independent valuations regarding sales by Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading of their grounds to their owners, amid concern a loophole was exploited to help them comply with profit and sustainability rules. All the clubs concerned have defended the sale of their grounds.