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DCMS select committee to question EFL and FA about Bury’s demise
Bury’s expulsion from the English Football League will be examined by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee this autumn, the panel’s chairman Damian Collins has confirmed.
Bury became the first club to be kicked out of the league since 1992 last week when the Shakers’ owner, Steve Dale, missed a final deadline to prove he could fund the club in League One this season or sell it to somebody who could.
A London-based sports data company pulled out of a deal to buy the club at the 11th hour and the EFL’s board refused to give Dale any more time despite his claims that there are other interested parties.
Since then, however, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, local MPs James Frith and Ivan Lewis, Bury Council and the Forever Bury supporters’ group have teamed up to ask the EFL to consider letting Bury return next season as a League Two club, a request the league has said it will discuss with the other 71 clubs.
Great Manchester Police has revealed it has been investigating an allegation of serious fraud at the club for the last 10 weeks, while the Insolvency Practitioners Association has said it is looking at the debt repayment deal Dale engineered this summer.
The EFL has also promised to investigate Bury’s demise but it now can expect to face an interrogation of its own, as Collins’ panel of backbench MPs has built a fearsome reputation for holding sports officials to account.
In a statement, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe described the decision to expel Bury as a “tragedy” for the club’s fans and the wider community but he also said it “marks a failure of football governance”.
For example, said Collins, the current ‘owners and directors test’ has not kept bad owners out of the game and the football authorities cannot intervene when clubs get into financial problems until it is too late.
“I would ask that even at this late stage that the EFL considers any realistic proposal that could support Bury’s status as a Football League club, including whether they could play next season in League Two, under new ownership,” he said.
“The select committee believes the issues that have affected Bury reflect a wider and growing problem within the Football League. We have seen similar crises at Bolton and other clubs in recent years.
“The committee has therefore agreed we will hold hearings in the autumn to take evidence relating to the crisis at Bury, and the role of the EFL and the Football Association in safeguarding the long-term interests of clubs.
“The committee will also inquire into what needs to be done to strengthen football governance rules in this regard.”
In addition, the EFL said on Thursday it is starting a “comprehensive review of the regulations and procedures concerning the financial sustainability of clubs”.
Led by Jonathan Taylor QC, the review will result in recommendations being made to the EFL’s board and member clubs.
Debbie Jevans, the EFL’s executive chair, said: “The withdrawal of Bury FC’s membership is one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to take at the EFL. This review will help everyone to understand what happened at Bury and ensure that, collectively, we learn and apply the right lessons for the future.”