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Senior football in Bury: the future is supporter-led

Today the FA confirmed that Steve Dale’s application for Bury FC to join the National League System [NLS] for the 2020/21 season has not been accepted by its Alliance Leagues Committee and this decision has now been ratified by the FA Council. Here the FSA’s head of national game and community ownership Andy Walsh explains why that decision was the right one and how the future of football in the town is supporter-led…

The FA’s announcement that Steve Dale’s attempts to apply for a place in the football pyramid next season has been rejected is to be welcomed if for no other reason that it gives a clarity to the next steps to establishing senior football in Bury.

Through the madness and the chaos caused by circumstances beyond their control the hope and determination of Bury fans to keep football alive in their town has started to take some shape.

With a place in the North West Counties League for next season confirmed, the supporter-owned Bury AFC have just announced the sale of their 1,000th shirt. A groundshare with local club Radcliffe FC has been secured and a new manager has been appointed.

By comparison the discredited owner of Bury FC, Steve Dale has seen his application to join any league next season rejected due to a failure to demonstrate the ability to pull together anything resembling a competent application.

Dale oversaw the demise of a 135-year-old football institution which resulted in the club being thrown out of the Football League. The incompetence on display during the entirety of his time at Bury FC has been laid bare once more.

The loss of Bury FC’s league status was a sad and traumatic day for Bury fans.

The decision of the EFL has been difficult to accept and hard to accept that the decision could not be undone. The anger directed towards Dale and previous owner Stuart Day has been stacked up alongside the bitterness felt at the handling of issues by the EFL.

A determined group of Bury fans refused to stand by and let all they knew be lost. With lessons drawn from supporters of other clubs that had faced similar pain they got down to setting up a phoenix club.

The application to join the football pyramid was prepared in double quick time. Even an epoch defining health pandemic could not stop them.

Steve Dale or anyone else is free to apply to join the pyramid next season. The FSA believes that the supporters behind Bury AFC have demonstrated a determination and a focus that deserves support and praise.

The FSA recognises that the loss of Bury FC remains hard to take in. We hope that any lingering differences amongst supporters can be set aside and we encourage all those who care about football and Bury FC to get behind Bury AFC in their inaugural season – whenever it may start.

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