Time running out for stricken Bury to survive
Bury F.C.'s proud 134-year history could come to an end on Saturday if the League One side cannot prove they are financially viable to the English Football League (EFL).
The EFL set a deadline of midnight on Friday for owner Steve Dale to accept an offer to buy the club or pay Â£2 million ($2.4 million) worth of debts and Â£1.5 million running costs for the season, otherwise they will be the first team expelled from the league in 27 years.
"If a successful solution is not found ahead of tonight's deadline, the Club's share in the EFL will be withdrawn and its membership in the League will come to an end," the EFL said in a statement on Friday.
Reports emerged two hours before the deadline claiming that Dale had finally agreed a sale, but there was no official confirmation from the EFL.
Potential buyers Rory Campbell and Henry Newman's C&N Sporting Risk said in a statement: "A club like Bury ought to have a viable long-term future even if the short-term future is clearly very challenging.
"To that end we have been in discussions with the EFL about an extension so that we can continue to explore the prospects for a purchase. We will be making no further comment at this stage."
Bury's first six games of the season have already been suspended, meaning time is of the essence not just for the cash-stricken Shakers, but for the EFL to preserve the integrity of English football's third tier.
"We can't keep postponing matches," said the EFL's executive chair, Debbie Jevans.
"If there is a potential purchaser they would have to give us something tangible but time is running out and a long delay isn't possible or practical, however much one wants this club to survive, however much there is empathy for the fans."
However, the league authorities are facing a backlash from disgruntled fans over their role in preventing predatory owners from asset-stripping clubs that for generations have been bastions of local communities.
"To consider today they might not have a football club, for me it's so upsetting," England women's manager Phil Neville, whose late father worked at the club as a director and whose mum resigned as club secretary last week, told the BBC.
"My mum is devastated. She resigned on Friday because she couldn't work with the current ownership.
"Common sense has to prevail. One man cannot stop one football club, which has hundreds of hundreds of years of history, going out of existence."
- Critical mass of debt -
Dale bought the heavily-indebted Bury for Â£1 in December, but failed to clear the debts, with staff going unpaid and the club served a winding-up petition by tax authorities.
The petition was dismissed at the High Court in July after creditors approved a company voluntary agreement.
That saw the Shakers, who were promoted last season despite the turmoil, given a 12-point penalty before the season began.
But Bury are not alone. In the same division, Bolton Wanderers, who enjoyed the riches of the Premier League as recently as 2012, could soon find themselves on the brink of collapse.
Bolton entered administration in May, also incurring a 12-point deduction, and had just three senior players available for last Saturday's 5-0 defeat by Tranmere Rovers.
Wanderers manager Phil Parkinson resigned this week after citing welfare concerns for youth teamers being fielded in senior football and Wanderers' match against Doncaster on Tuesday has been postponed.
"I don't blame the EFL for the specific problems at Bury -- they are in this position because of their last two owners," said former Port Vale chairman Norman Smurthwaite, who saw a bid to buy Bury dismissed by Dale.
"But what this crisis, and the situation at Bolton, has highlighted is the critical mass of debt that has built up in the EFL."
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