‘Devastated’ EFL boss Debbie Jevans promises Bury investigation

The decision to expel Bury from the English Football League has left its boss Debbie Jevans “devastated” but she has promised to launch an investigation into what happened.

The Shakers’ 125-year stay in the league ended at 11pm on Tuesday, six hours after Bury owner Steve Dale missed a final deadline to provide the EFL with assurances he could fund the club or had sold it to someone who could.

A possible rescue by C&N Sporting Risk fell through shortly before that deadline when the London-based analytics company announced it could not proceed because of concerns about the club’s mortgages.

Messages from supporters are placed on a fence outside Bury's Gigg Lane stadium
Messages from supporters are placed on a fence outside Bury’s Gigg Lane stadium (Dave Howarth/PA).

In a statement released on Tuesday, C&N said these issues only became apparent when it was given full access to the books and the “complexities involved escalated”.

It promised to share these findings with the EFL “to help them with their ongoing review of football governance, which is essential for the long-term future of the EFL and broader football family”.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Jevans said the league would “take up that offer” as it was clear Bury’s collapse had caused “significant financial distress and these matters require further investigation”.

Asked for her personal reaction to the first expulsion of a league club since 1992, she said: “I feel devastated, sad, any number of adjectives, because this isn’t a situation that has arisen over the last 24 hours.

“This has been constant work, rightly, for weeks and months, involving numerous conversations with the board and Mr Dale trying to find solutions.

“So, yes, devastated, no other word for it. It’s very sad.”

She denied, however, that the league had any other option, saying it could not force Dale, or any other owner, to sell.

“It was his decision not to sell. The EFL doesn’t run football clubs,” she said.

On whether the league should have given more time to the flurry of late bidders who emerged after the 5pm deadline, Jevans said: “At what point in any situation do you say enough?

“We’ve already postponed (Bury’s first) five games and each of those impacts other teams. Do we postpone six, seven, eight, nine – at what point do you stop?

“We have duty of care to the 23 other clubs in League One and equally to all of the clubs in the Championship and League Two.”

Jevans also rejected the idea Bury could have been relegated to League Two, as that would also have had consequences for others, and denied the league has been more lenient with its other ‘crisis club’ Bolton, saying they have been treated in exactly the same way.

With no right of appeal, Bury can only write to Jevans and the EFL board to ask for a change of heart, but there appears to be absolutely no prospect of that.

MP for Bury South Ivan Lewis has nevertheless called on the EFL to reverse their decision, claiming on Twitter that the organisation had “proof of funds from a credible global organisation which has agreed a purchase with Steve Dale”.

Asked how an EFL investigation might proceed, when Dale is almost certain to liquidate the club, potentially sealing its secrets forever, Jevans said: “This situation has happened and we have committed to do an investigation.

“I can’t name the individuals (who would conduct it) now. We have not received the due diligence that C&N Sporting Risk has undertaken.

The shutters are down at the superstore at Gigg Lane
The shutters are down at the superstore at Gigg Lane (Dave Howarth/PA).

“I need to receive that information, the board need to sit down and look at it and then we need to do the necessary investigation with the support of the clubs.”

Looking beyond the wreckage at Gigg Lane, Jevans restated her commitment to the governance review she has started, which she hopes will focus on how clubs manage their costs.

She also said she would listen to all suggestions, including the growing calls for an independent regulator for football. Ultimately, however, that could only come about if club owners back it or it is imposed on them by government. Neither seem particularly likely.

“My understanding is that (HM Revenue and Customs) has said the insolvency of clubs is currently at the lowest level it has been in the modern era,” she said.

“Whilst not taking this situation lightly, there are a lot of well-run clubs out there. We are going to take the lessons from this and move forward and do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

MP Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, called for a full review of the EFL’s role in Bury’s demise.

“The process run by @efl has failed fans of @buryfcofficial & may do the same to @OfficialBWFC,” he tweeted.

“Next week @CommonsCMS will discuss how we can review the role of the football authorities in this crisis & what new powers are needed to act against bad owners and directors of clubs.”

Sports Minister Nigel Adams called the club’s expulsion “a very dark day for English football” and “a tragedy for the fans of Bury”.

England Women’s manager Phil Neville described the devastation the club’s demise has had on his own family.

His mother, Jill, recently left her role as club secretary, while his late father, Neville, was a director and has a stand named after him at Gigg Lane.

He told Sky Sports News: “There are people in that football club that are ingrained in the brickwork, in the foundations. They wake up this morning with no football club.

“One man, at this moment in time, is to blame for it. And nothing can be done about it, so all we can do is hope that Bury have a football club in the future. How that happens I don’t know.”

The Professional Footballers’ Association said would continue to support all its members who had been impacted by Bury’s collapse, “including former players, the remaining players who are contracted at the club and also those who were hoping to sign contracts”.

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