Nigel Kahn’s Column

In 1885 Bury football club was formed, in 2019 it was wiped off the face of the football planet, stuck with an owner that was unable to prove he had the funds to see it through the season. The Football League gave up extending its deadline when potential buyers walked away at the last minute.

I’m sure there is more to come out about who and what conspired to run this club into the ground but now it becomes a cautionary tale to all football fans outside of supporting the biggest clubs how a club should live within its means, only spending what it can afford. As it seems Bury have for years lived beyond their means, spending what they didn’t have. Perhaps what makes this even harder is they won promotion and therefore were looking at an increase on their income by playing in a higher division.

Many of us older generation of fans lay claim that football didn’t start in 1992 with the formation of the Premier League, it existed long before then. Commentators these days seem to only mention Premier League records, when giving fill information during a game. This is for me a slap in the face of those that went before, but the (E)PL is the paymaster now, not us fans.

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Years ago, before the PL we didn’t have the wall to wall coverage on TV. There was a TV deal that included live TV games and highlight packages, that money was paid to the Football league who redistributed the money more evenly through all the leagues, not just the top division who it was deemed most armchair fans wanted to watch. The greed of the bigger clubs in creating the Premier League was all about taking more control of the TV money.


Ten years ago, West ham were struggling financially, we were owned by a bank that inherited us as a bad debt. The bank itself was struggling as the Icelandic banking system helped push the world into recession, not just West Ham. Gold and Sullivan managed to win the three-way competition to buy us and then set about trying to right the sinking ship, as the finances were dragging the club down.

They claimed on the day they bought the club we were £100 million in debt and were still finding more. The debt racked up in just 3 years by owners who were chasing a dream of propelling the club into places they had threatened to be in in the past, but never achieved it regularly.

Part of the Daves’ mantra when buying the club was a 7-year plan to put us in the Champions League, achieved off the back no less by moving the club into a larger stadium they didn’t have to pay to build. 10 tears, sorry years, on we as a club are no nearer in my opinion reaching that goal, more because football finances at the top of the PL tree is outstripping the finances of those below them in the same league, let alone the lower league clubs.

The Daves for years have been criticised by many for their tight grip on the purse strings at the club, Even this season many while welcoming the big money (for West ham) spent on two players, still bemoaned the fact they only net spent around £35 million against the £120 odd million earned by its membership of the PL last season.

Those that listen to Moore than Just a Podcast will have heard me repeatedly say that clubs should only spend what they earn. No club should be bankrolled by a sugar daddy owner. I don’t want the Daves putting their own money into the club as at some point they will want it back and that is where trouble begins. Too many fans think that the club’s money is the same as the owner’s money and vice versa. It’s not, they are separate entities and as such should be treated that way. Football needs to look now with the loss of Bury at the way football clubs are funded and bring in legislation to protect clubs from being saddled with owner’s debts or other debts that could be unsustainable in the event of relegation of any league.

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Fans also need to understand that money can not or should not be thrown around like confetti at a wedding, in the attempt to take them to whatever their perceived next level is, be it promotion or qualification for Europe regularly as our goal was supposed to be.

Don’t misunderstand me here. While I’ll defend the owners in the cautious way they spend money I still look forward to the day they leave. I just hope they don’t leave us financially in the mess many other clubs, just as loved by their fans as we do ours, were left in.

Bury’s demise should be a warning to football, not just those lower down the scale.