In August 2019, Bury FC were expelled from the Football League after financial issues left the club unable to pay off outstanding debts.
A takeover bid was reportedly close to going through before the club disbanded, but it fell through at the last minute, leaving the club in the dark for the past two years.
However, a consortium led by the Est 1885 supporters’ group has provided hope for the long-term future of the club. It was announced last week that the group is hoping to purchase Bury’s former ground, Gigg Lane.
How could the new-look Bury take shape?
Since their expulsion from the Football League, Bury have rebranded as the phoenix club Bury AFC. They have been playing in the 10th tier of English football, in the North West Counties Football League.
The club have been attracting large crowds of 1,000 or more at their temporary ground, the Radcliffe’s Neuven Stadium, as much of the loyal fanbase have remained to support the club.
The recent developments that could lead to EST 1885 purchasing Gigg Lane show promising signs for Bury AFC and its fans. The 12,000-seater stadium has been empty since 2019, and it has fallen into a sorry state, with an overgrown pitch and run-down appearance.
But, by hopefully purchasing Gigg Lane, the EST 1885 consortium hope Bury AFC can re-enter the football pyramid before the 2022/23 season. Currently, it is estimated that the consortium could buy the ground before Christmas 2021.
Furthermore, alongside the potential purchase of Gigg Lane, there are proposals to reinstate the club’s original name, Bury FC. But this would require FA approval before being formalised.
A bright long-term future?
Re-claiming Gigg Lane would be the first step in securing a bright future for Bury AFC. Owning the ground would be a foundation to getting Bury back into the higher tiers of English football, and this would become more achievable if the sale materialised.
Furthermore, the consortium hopes that the potential purchase of Gigg Lane can bring the entire fanbase back together under one club. The loss of Bury FC from the Football League caused shock among the club’s fanbase, and it led to two polarised sets of fans forming. Some support the formation of Bury AFC, as they have given hope to the future of the club. Others, however, opposed the phoenix club as it was set up while the former Bury FC was still in existence.
However, the club have since acknowledged that getting Gigg Lane back up to scratch to meet FA standards before the 2022/23 season would take a monumental and financial commitment from stakeholders and fans.
A rise to the Football League not unreasonable
Comparisons can be made between Bury’s reformation and Wimbledon in the early 2000s. After experiencing similar financial problems and starting from scratch in the Combined Counties Football League, the 10th tier of English football, as AFC Wimbledon, the Dons have shown how a reformation can breed future success.
The south London club now owns a brand-new Plough Lane Stadium, and they compete in League One. They also have a safe and secure future under the ownership of fans, who care about the long-term stability of the club.