Bury are now almost certain to be expelled from the English Football League after a proposed takeover by C&N Sporting Risk fell through, just 90 minutes before a league-set deadline for the deal to be completed.
The League One club’s owner Steve Dale was originally given until midnight on Friday to prove he could pay off Bury’s debts and fund the next two seasons or find someone who could.
Two hours before that deadline expired, Dale told reporters he had sold the club to C&N, a London-based sports analytics company set up by former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell’s son Rory Campbell and former Barnet caretaker manager Henry Newman, who met while scouting for West Ham.
The proposed takeover of League One club Bury by C&N Sporting Risk has fallen through
This seemed to be the rescue Bury fans had been praying for and on Saturday morning the EFL extended its deadline until 5pm on Tuesday to give Dale and C&N more time to complete the deal.
C&N, however, was disappointed not to be given more time and has now issued a statement to say it simply cannot proceed – a decision that leaves the 134-year-old club needing a miracle.
In a statement, C&N said: ‘We are grateful to the EFL for the short extension they granted to us so that we could continue with due diligence, and for their acceptance of our proof of funds capable of mounting a credible takeover. This has been worked on around the clock by our team and advisors for the past 72 hours.
‘As part of our due diligence, we set ourselves a list of key criteria regarding the CVA, the ground and the overall financial state of the club that had to be met in order for us to be satisfied that we have enough knowledge to proceed with the takeover. The complexities involved in each of these matters escalated and continue to do so.
‘It is therefore with regret that we have decided not to proceed with the takeover of Bury FC. This decision has not been taken lightly. We fully understand the importance of the club to the community and it is with this in mind that we have informed the EFL of our decision at the earliest possible opportunity.’
Bury are at risk of being expelled from the Football League
The firm, which was only set up in 2017, added that it would like to thank Bury North MP James Frith for his help over the last few months and Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt for his support, too. It also praised EFL chair Debbie Jevans for her efforts in trying to save the club.
‘With this in mind, we will be happy to work together with the EFL to share our findings to help them with their ongoing review of football governance, which is essential for the long term future of all members of the EFL and the broader football family,’ it added.
The EFL said that they will continue to be in discussions with Bury ahead of the deadline
Norman Smurthwaite, the former Port Vale owner who was in talks with the EFL and C&N Sporting Risk group, fears the club is ‘finished’.
He had asked the league to consider allowing Bury to play away from Gigg Lane while mortgage issues were resolved.
He told the Bury Times: ‘The EFL said they were not going to do it, so I fear the club is finished, I’m afraid.’
‘I tried my best. The football creditors would have been paid and the genuine creditors in the CVA would have got their money.
‘We discussed it Saturday night, this morning – I even said to the group who were buying the club “come on, let me step in and do this”.
‘They said they wanted a solution to save Bury and I gave them it.’
In a short statement, the EFL said: ‘The EFL Board has been informed that C&N Sporting Risk will no longer be pursuing their interest in Bury FC.
‘The league announced at the weekend that it was working exclusively with the club and C&N in an attempt to finalise a change of control at the club. However, following a period of due diligence, C&N have opted not to progress matters.
‘The league continues to be in discussions with Bury FC in advance of today’s 5pm deadline and will provide a further update as appropriate.’
The Football Supporters’ Association was not happy to hear the news.
FSA vice-chair Tom Greatrex said: ‘The potential impact of losing a club is huge – not just for the league but for supporters and the town itself, too.
‘The protracted crisis around Bury and Bolton shows the regulatory regime is not fit for purpose and has to be sorted out.
‘We’ve put forward a range of proposals to deal with the ownership issues we’re seeing – it’s time for the football authorities to be shaken out of their complacency and show serious engagement with these ideas.
‘We can’t have this situation again. An 11th hour closing of a club is not good for football, for the reputation of the game or those owners who are actually doing a good job.’