Following their expulsion from the EFL, Bury are back! Reforming as Bury AFC as they begin their climb up the football pyramid.
The Downfall of Bury FC
30th April 2019. Bury hold Tranmere Rovers to a 1-1 draw which confirmed their promotion to League One despite all odds.
Fast forward to the 27th August, a nightmare occurred for the Shakers. As the club were expelled from the EFL following financial problems under owner Steve Dale.
Bury AFC director Gareth Castick said the club’s expulsion was heart-breaking for the town.
“We knew there were problems financially, because we knew the players weren’t being paid under Ryan Lowe. But they carried on playing, with a little bit of hope that things might get resolved. But in August we were expelled from the league and that really did hit the whole town very hard, some fans were really devastated by the impact of losing the club.” he said.
Despite multiple attempts trying to resurrect the club, by trying to sell Bury FC and legal battles with the EFL, Dale soon found that his Bury football club are no more.
The Beginning of Bury AFC
However, fans were frustrated at their previous owner and the lack of progress made following the clubs expulsion and took matters into their own hands.
“We started looking at creating a phoenix club around October last year. At first, there was a town hall meeting for members of Forever Bury, our community supporters’ trust. To look at things that could be put into place, either to save Bury FC or if possible to look at creating a phoenix club.” Castick said.
“In terms of plans, we (Bury AFC) weren’t plan A, but plan B or maybe plan C. I think the main aim was to find a buyer for Bury FC, that we thought was sustainable and would run the club within its means. It became apparent that wasn’t possible. So, we started to put plans into place to look at the structure and what we would need to create a phoenix club.”
The fans then finally registered their new club as a company at the back end of 2019, applying to join the North West Counties Football League (NWCFL) ahead of the next season.
Then on the 21st February, Bury AFC’s application to enter the NWCFL was accepted as they began to prepare for their first season.
Castick said: “From a point of view of creating a phoenix club, to get allocated into a league it felt like a culmination of a lot of hard work, that we’d actually got a place within the football pyramid. That we can start work, climbing up towards where we feel we have to be.”
How the club will work
The newly created Shakers are fan-owned and they currently operate on a system called one member, one vote. Something which Castick believes is vital for the club.
“The way we finance the club is through the sales of memberships. We have a membership scheme where you pay £5 a month and then you get a say in how the club is run and have a say on what decisions are being made,” he said.
“We did a kit vote, a vote on the badge and at the moment with Covid and the restrictions it has on the crowd, members are prioritised for tickets. We have got over 1,500 members, so that’s created quite a lot of revenue.”
Despite the financial impact Covid may have on other clubs in the English football pyramid, the Director feels even with the 300-person capacity restriction they have at Stainton Park, they will still have enough money through ticket revenue to run the club.
He said: “At the level we’re at, we are allowed fans into the ground. The numbers are as such so it’s sustainable for us, we should be fine financially.”
Starting again in the NWCFL
NWCFL chairman Paul Lawler believes despite the failures of the former side Bury FC. The addition of the phoenix club into the NWCFL can be a positive for the Shakers fans.
He said: “Phoenix clubs are usually fan-owned clubs and it allows the fans to keep the traditional names alive and also have a say in the running of the club, something they previously didn’t have that ultimately led to their previous clubs going under.”
Lawler also believes the league can help Bury AFC in becoming successful, following other phoenix clubs’ success stories in the league before such as Fleetwood Town and FC United of Manchester.
“As a league we have a brilliant record of working with teams that have reformed and have had to start again. I think one thing we can share through the experience of working with these clubs, is that we’re able to send them on a course for success,” he said.
“Takes the likes of Fleetwood Town, they started as Fleetwood Freeport in our league several years ago and they obviously went through the system and managed to regain football league status.”
Bury AFC’s campaign is now underway, and they have enjoyed a positive start to the season, as they have won two of their first three games, under their manager Andy Welsh.
“We’re really pleased with the progress that’s being made and are optimistic we can reach our goal which is promotion for this season.” Castick said.
The director told the Match the goals the club have set themselves for future seasons.
He said: “Long term, we want to work our way up the football pyramid as quickly as possible. Off the pitch, it’s to look at building more community links and community projects, setting up an academy and continuing to build on our marketing deals and merchandise.”