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Police open fraud investigation linked to Bury’s demise
Greater Manchester Police received a report of fraud involving Bury in June.
Greater Manchester Police have started a fraud inquiry into the cash crisis that ultimately led to Bury’s expulsion from the English Football League last week.
In a short statement, the force said: “On June 18 2019, police received a report of fraud involving Bury Football Club. No arrests have been made and enquiries are ongoing.”
That report was made exactly one month before current owner Steve Dale reached a company voluntary arrangement with the club’s creditors to repay 25 per cent of the £9million they were owed.
But that deal depended on the Shakers being allowed to play this season, something the EFL, concerned about Dale’s ability to finance those debts and the team’s costs, refused to sanction.
This resulted in Dale missing several deadlines to either prove he could meet his obligations or sell the Sky Bet League One club to someone else, with the EFL finally running out of patience last week, making Bury the first club to be expelled from the league since 1992.
News that the police have been investigating the club’s demise for 10 weeks comes a day after the Greater Manchester Combined Authority announced it was working with local MPs James Frith and Ivan Lewis and supporters group Forever Bury to save the Shakers.
Led by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, the former secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, the group wants the EFL to reinstate Bury in League Two next season, providing a credible business plan for the club can be found before Christmas.
Without a guarantee of league football next season, there is no chance of Bury avoiding liquidation, a fate that would mean starting again as a so-called phoenix club in non-league football.
In a statement, the GMCA said: “”First, we will work to develop a clear proposal to the English Football League, by Friday September 20, that will allow us the opportunity to work towards re-entry to League Two.
“Second, if the EFL agree to that proposal, we will then work on a credible plan to rebuild the club, which all signatories to this statement will feel able to endorse.
“Third, if that credible plan fails to emerge within in the deadline then we accept the EFL’s right to impose their original decision.”
Dale has so far not commented on this plan but he has had plenty to say since buying the club for £1 in December, after former owner Stewart Day ran up huge debts at Gigg Lane and in his own property development business.
Throughout July and August, Dale repeatedly criticised the EFL’s refusal to let Bury start the season, claiming he had shown the league the proof of funds required to satisfy the CVA he engineered and pay the club’s players and staff on time.
And when a late bid for Bury from a London-based group fell through on the day of the EFL’s final deadline, Dale once again accused the league of picking on him and his club and ignoring new rescue offers for the 134-year-old institution.
But in his most recent statement, last week, Dale also mentioned a “serious fraud investigation” to unnamed individuals.
None of the late bids he referred to, however, have materialised into anything that would make the EFL reconsider its decision and the league’s focus has shifted from saving Bury to making sure this never happens again – a process which should include its own investigation into the club’s collapse.
The club’s last credible bidder, C&N Sporting Risk, has already promised to share with the league what it discovered when it was allowed to take a close look at Bury’s books.
And there is also a third investigation into the club under way, as the Insolvency Practitioners Association has confirmed it is looking at the circumstances surrounding that July CVA, which saw Dale and his associates beat HM Revenue and Customs, and other unsecured creditors unhappy with the proposed payout, in a vote to accept it.
Later on Tuesday, the EFL responded to the GMCA’s reinstatement plan by restating its “regret” over Bury’s expulsion but reminding everyone that it was “a consequence of severe financial problems…over an extended period of time, which had recently led to an insolvency event and a 12-point deduction”.
“ In statement, the EFL also pointed out that the “only established procedure for entry to the EFL is through promotion from the National League” and there is “no precedent” for a club taking a shortcut to the league following expulsion. Furthermore, the decision on where a club re-enters the league pyramid is made by the Football Association, following an application.
But the league has left the door slightly ajar for Bury by agreeing to discuss the idea of a return to League Two next season with its remaining 71 member clubs.
“This is a complex situation that raises questions of due process, precedent and fairness as well as financial implications,” it said.
“The EFL will consult with its clubs over the coming weeks.”