The present plight of Bury football club is atrociously grim and sadly one that is becoming all-too-commonplace beyond the mega-rich playground of the Premier League.
At the end of July the Shakers successfully fought off a winding up order at the fourth attempt but are mired in £4m of debt.
At the helm is an owner in Steve Dale, who took control of the ailing club back in December without the full approval of the EPL. Six months later he responded to complaints by club staff that they had not been paid by releasing a 1,300 word statement that accused said staff of ‘causing all this unpleasantness with their internet troll accomplices’.
Having upset the odds last term to achieve promotion from League Two under the watchful eye of highly-rated coach Ryan Lowe, who has since departed for Plymouth, their circumstance is so grave that Bury have cancelled their first three games of the season and consequently could be kicked out of the football league.
Additionally they start this defining campaign with a twelve point deficit, the punishment reluctantly dished out by the EFL following the club’s receipt of notice that a Company Voluntary Arrangement was passed.
In one way – and only one way – Bury’s fixture suspension is a blessing. They currently have a squad of just nine players.
Nine miles down the M60 from the crisis-hit club stands the imposing environs of the Etihad and a dominant force in English football whose biggest financial concern this summer concerned whether they should shell out £60m on a full-back they merely desired than needed.
To compare these neighbours is to put a pauper to a prince and the same can be said of the other behemoth that resides locally, namely Manchester United.
With possible expulsion from the league still hanging over Bury’s head, and given the enormous wealth and resources of the two Manchester giants nearby, it has been noted of late that perhaps City and United could step in and help.
Perhaps they could in some way bridge the enormous disparity between the billionaires and the broke who all inhabit the same footballing pyramid.
It is something that Nigel Clough has spoken about recently, stating that Premier League outfits have a ‘responsibility’ to bail out struggling institutions such as Bolton and Bury.
Others, meanwhile, have an opposing view, as illustrated in the tweet below and playing devil’s advocate on this maybe it ultimately comes down to rhetoric: responsibility versus obligation. The former borders on the incontestable. The latter less so.
“Get Man City to bail out Bury and Bolton” is the B-side to the classic “Give soldiers footballers’ wages” shout
— Oliver (@OliverB_1998) July 31, 2019
The truth of the matter is, however, that Manchester City have been assisting Bury – and for some time too – by allowing them to use their old Carrington training ground rent-free.
Sadly this is an arrangement that has come to an end of late, with City unhappy at the state of the pitches and vexed too by break-ins.
It was an arrangement that still saved Bury an estimated £80,000 a year and a grand total of £350,000.
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On United’s side, a legends game played at Gigg Lane last summer brought in a bumper crowd, while the Shakers’ close links to the Neville family – Gary and Phil’s father, Neville Neville, has a stand named after him at Bury after many years outstanding service – throws up rumours of the former United mainstays dipping in to their own pockets to help out the club.
The question then is not whether City and United should help out their desperate fellow North West outfit: it’s whether they could and should be doing more.
That comes down to responsibility and, at an ethical push, obligation.
It is a difficult one to call.