Bury have been given extra time to prevent their expulsion from the English Football League – but the club’s prospective new owners fear it might not be enough.
The EFL has set a new deadline of 5pm on Tuesday for owner Steve Dale to complete a sale after receiving information to consider a request for an extension to Friday’s original deadline.
C&N Sporting Risk, a data analytics company helmed by Rory Campbell – the son of former Labour Party spin doctor Alastair Campbell – and Henry Newman, want to buy the League One club, with the EFL announcing on Friday night that Dale had accepted an offer to sell Bury.
The EFL said in a statement on Saturday afternoon that, shortly 11.59pm on Friday, it had “received notification that an offer for the club had been accepted” and a request was made for an extension to the deadline.”
The governing body said C&N Sporting Risk had provided “enough credible information” to allow the EFL board “to work exclusively with the club and C&N Sporting Risk over this bank holiday weekend in an attempt to finalise the change of control and achieve a positive outcome for Bury FC”.
But it emphasised that no more of Bury’s fixtures could be suspended and said that “matters must be concluded by 5pm on Tuesday 27 August 2019”.
The EFL added: “If in the event a successful outcome is not achieved by this point, then Bury FC’s share in the EFL will be withdrawn and its membership in the League will come to an end.”
EFL executive chair Debbie Jevans said: “No one wants to see a club lose its place in the League and we will now work with the potential purchasers over the weekend and ahead of the Tuesday deadline in an attempt to find the solutions required for a sale to take place.”
But C&N Sporting Risk, who have been in discussions to buy the club for 10 weeks and worked closely with Bury North MP James Frith, criticised the EFL’s decision to “go for such a short extension” to the deadline to complete a takeover.
The company told the PA news agency there were “a number of serious outstanding issues to be addressed”.
It said: “It is disappointing the EFL have chosen to go for such a short extension especially given this is a bank holiday weekend and our main legal adviser is unavailable until Wednesday.
“Meeting with her and the solicitors is absolutely fundamental to some serious contractual matters that need addressing and our overall decision making process. We made the EFL explicitly aware of this and the timeline we required.
“While meetings with legal advisors have taken place prior to this point, only late in the day yesterday did we obtain a clearer picture as to the overall state of the club, hence this request for the extension.
“We will however seek to gain answers to the main outstanding questions in the short time available but this does make the task much more challenging.
“It would be a huge pity if the club were to fold because of lack of time to do the due diligence necessary for such a complicated scenario.”
Frith also suggested the deadline was not long enough, saying in a statement: “Technically, the EFL has narrowed and shortened the road they might have handed us.
“A working week 48-hour extension minimum is what I and those of us working on this asked for but this is half that.
“The EFL has taken more than 14 hours to decide this, why expect the bidding party to achieve more in less than the time requested?
“Nevertheless, it’s been a monumental effort to get this far since June 6th when C&N Sporting Risk director Henry Newman first approached me.
“And we continue. For now, we must trust that the new owners and current owner work in their best interests and ours to get this over the line.”
Dale bought Bury for £1 in December after previous owner Stewart Day ran up huge debts following years of overspending at Gigg Lane.
Having initially claimed to buy Bury for “philanthropic” reasons, Dale put the 134-year-old club into administration this summer and engineered a debt repayment scheme.
The scheme, known as a company voluntary arrangement, would see creditors paid only 25 per cent of what they are owed, with him and his associates being the main beneficiaries.
His plan, however, depended on Bury being allowed to start the season – with a small squad and skeleton staff – and the EFL handing over the club’s share of its central income. That, as desperate Bury fans are well aware, has not happened.
Having previously greeted each EFL postponement of a Bury game – five league fixtures and an EFL Cup tie so far this season – with an angry statement on the club website, Dale announced he was willing to listen to offers for the club early last week.