Bury expelled from EFL, Bolton on the brink: the dark side of English football

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12:09 PM ETMark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC BURY, England — The bailiffs turned up to collect the treadmills from Bury’s training ground last Friday. Considering that the League One team’s players had been paid six weeks’ wages by the club over the past six months, there was no surprise among the squad to see the debt collectors take away the most basic of equipment, but it was a grim warning of what was to come. “The bailiffs took the anti-gravity treadmill, too,” Bury defender Tom Miller told ESPN FC as he waited for news on the club’s future.”It’s all a bit of mess, to be honest.”Friday, Aug. 23, was D-Day. Bury, formed in 1885, had a 5 p.m. deadline to find new owners if they were to stave off expulsion from the Football League (EFL). They were given one final extension following the emergence of a bid and optimism rose that the club could be saved, but at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the axe fell after a proposed takeover collapsed.”I’m all over the place,” a Bury player told ESPN FC following confirmation of the club’s fate. “I’ve got no money coming in now and my missus is pregnant. I’m f—-d.”Welcome to life away from the Premier League. This is League One, English football’s third tier, two promotions away from the self-styled “most exciting league in the world” and where an increasing number of clubs are struggling to pay the bills.Bury, FA Cup winners in 1900 and 1903, are the first club to be kicked out of the league since Maidstone United in August 1992 after being unable to escape their financial tailspin and with Premier League riches barely trickling down to the lower leagues, Bury may prove to be the tip of the iceberg. Bury’s training ground, which they have used rent-free from Manchester City, the facility’s owner, is a five-minute drive to Manchester United’s Carrington training centre, but they may as well be worlds apart. And just over 12 miles from Bury’s Gigg Lane stadium, their home since 1885, the story is threatening to be similarly bleak at Bolton.Bolton Wanderers are a founding member of the Football League in 1888 and were a Premier League club as recently as 2012. The four-time FA Cup winners have been given 14 days to resolve their own financial difficulties and, on Wednesday, it appeared that they have: it was announced that they have been sold.Their next home game, on Sept 8, was supposed to be against Bury, but it will not happen. The match had been dubbed “El Brassico” by supporters. In these parts of northern England, “brassic” is slang for having no money to live or pay the bills, so it was an appropriate tagline for a meeting between two financially crippled neighbours.A Premier League club between 2001 and 2012, Bolton suffered successive five-goal losses against Ipswich Town last Saturday and Tranmere Rovers the week before.Against Ipswich, Bolton’s players wore a store-bought kit that is not even available to purchase in the club shop because nobody is prepared to offer them a kit deal or pay to sponsor the shirts. When Ipswich scored their third, the giant scoreboard inside the University of Bolton Stadium stopped showing the score, perhaps to save the four 17-year-olds playing for the managerless team the psychological scars of seeing the scoreline in big neon lights.”Credit to the fans,” said Jimmy Phillips, Bolton’s caretaker manager, after the game. “They were outstanding for us. They’ve turned up and got behind the players, but patience is running thin.”Patience, hope and certainty. All are in perilously short supply right now.Bury and Bolton both started this season on -12 points, the penalty applied by the EFL for entering administration (a legal mechanism that allows insolvent companies to continue trading while facing serious cash-flow problems). The action was due to mounting debts and the inabi

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