Bury fans face an anxious wait to hear if their club has been saved after the possible 11th-hour sale of the League One outfit.
The Shakers had been poised to be expelled from the English Football League for failing to prove the Gigg Lane outfit’s financial viability.
But the EFL is considering extending Friday’s expulsion deadline after being informed a deal had been struck to sell the embattled club.
Just minutes before the League One side were due to lose their Football League status, the EFL announced owner Steve Dale had accepted an offer from C&N Sporting Risk.
The governing body said it was in “discussions with the potential purchaser and await information to allow the board to consider a request for an extension to Friday’s deadline”.
Dale had been given until 23.59 on Friday to either provide proof to the EFL he could fund the Shakers this season or hand the club over to someone who can.
Extinction was the option if not but, after a day of claim and counter-claim, Dale told the PA news agency on Friday night he had agreed a deal.
Rory Campbell and Henry Newman’s C&N Sporting Risk, whose bid was made on Friday, have been working closely with Bury North MP James Frith.
Before the EFL’s announcement, Campbell and Newman told PA in a statement: “We can confirm that over the past 10 weeks we have been in discussions with Bury FC, the EFL and others with a view to putting forward a proposal to buy the club.
“It is a very complicated scenario and there remain a number of outstanding legal and other issues that have to be addressed. Our background is in football and data analytics and it should therefore not be surprising that we are taking a very detailed forensic look at the realities of Bury FC finances.
“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.”
Dale’s declaration of a sale came just before 10pm, with a little over two hours remaining before the deadline.
The Cheshire-based businessman said throughout the day he had a buyer lined up but was unsure if a deal could be concluded before the deadline, having also asked fans to pledge money, while MP Frith had said a “credible bid” would be lodged along with proof of funding.
Discussing the likelihood of an extension on BBC Radio 5 Live on Saturday morning, Frith said: “I think if the EFL need anything more than they’ve got right now, then they’ve raised the bar higher than I believe it needed to be in order to suspend the expulsion order.
“I don’t believe the EFL will want to consign Bury to history and I think both Steve Dale and C&N Sporting Risk and those of us involved in this for as long as we have been, I think we’ve provided more than enough reason to extend.
“But equally, the practicalities of this could yet be the reason why things don’t happen in time, so we’re still not clear of all of this.”
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.
England women’s team manager Phil Neville revealed that his mother Jill, who had been Bury’s club secretary, resigned from her job on Friday.
The former Manchester United defender, whose late father Neville has a stand named after him at Gigg Lane, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “My mum has worked there for 30 years, my dad’s got a stand named after him and to consider that today they might not have a football club is so upsetting.
“My mum’s devastated. She resigned on Friday because she couldn’t work with the current ownership.”