In one of English football’s darkest days, Bury FC have removed from the Football League's third tier after failing to find a buyer for the club.
Another club, Bolton, have been given 14 days to escape the same fate.
Both clubs were placed into administration by the authorities — the English Football League (EFL) — after financial mishandling left them without the appropriate funds.
They were working on deals to save their clubs from insolvency but Tuesday's 17h BST deadline passed without any agreement being announced.
Bury were agonisingly close to saving themselves from league expulsion. Prospective buyers C&N Sporting Risk began negotiations with current Bury owner and chairman Steve Dale. However just one hour before the EFL deadline, it was announced that no agreement could be reached.
In a statement, C&N Sporting Risk said: "As part of our due diligence, we set ourselves a list of key criteria regarding the CVA, the ground and the overall financial state of the club that had to be met in order for us to be satisfied that we have enough knowledge to proceed with the takeover. The complexities involved in each of these matters escalated and continue to do so. It is therefore with regret that we will be unable to proceed with the takeover of Bury FC.”
The EFL said in a statement: "The EFL Board met earlier this evening and, after a long and detailed discussion, determined that Bury FC’s membership of the English Football League be withdrawn after the deadline passed at 5 pm today (August 27)."
In the case of Bolton, a deal was being negotiated with Football Ventures (Whites) Limited, but during the final stage of talks on August 24, it fell through. The firm was registered in January with the sole purpose of purchasing the football club but they have thus far been unable to reach an acceptable agreement with current owner Ken Anderson.
Whilst Bolton had not found a buyer by the 5 pm, the EFL board granted them a 14-day extension to find a buyer. In a statement, the EFL said: "The EFL Board has therefore taken the decision to lift the suspension on the notice of withdrawal, which was issued as per the EFL’s insolvency policy when the Club entered administration in May 2019.
As per the League’s Articles of Association, this will now give the Club 14 days (11.59pm on 12 September 2019) to meet all outstanding requirements of the League’s insolvency policy or its membership in the EFL will be withdrawn."
To ensure the league structure isn't compromised, the EFL has said that only three teams will be relegated from League One as opposed to the standard four. League Two will still have four teams promoted at the end of the season, but only one team will be relegated into the National League rather than the standard two. However, if Bolton are unable to avoid their same fate after their two-week extension, this will once again have to be re-structured to meet the numbers requirements of the Football League.
Many clubs in the UK have entered administration before, such as Leeds United in 2007, Southampton FC in 2009, and Portsmouth FC in 2010. But in these cases, new buyers were found and the clubs debts were settled before the EFL were required to take action against them.
Chris Evans is a deputy headteacher and lifelong Bolton Fan. He believes that there are a lot of people to blame.
"The trouble with us started with Eddie Davis. He never really had an exit strategy, it seemed like his entire plan was based on us being in the Premier League. And the takeovers have always been strange. Dean Holdsworth trying to buy us with no money, trying to use loans with ridiculous interest rates. Then Ken Anderson coming in with a last-minute deal. The EFL should never have let him take us over. He has a history of liquidating companies, and he used Bolton to pay himself and his son a lot of money."
For both clubs' liquidation is a very strong possibility, and we may see new clubs rise up to take on the baton for their former sides. AFC Wimbledon is the most famous example of this. Now a League One side, the club formed after the original Wimbledon Dons were bought out and moved to Milton Keynes.
Chris said: "Absolutely. I'd support Bolton whatever league they're in. The saddest part for me is I've got an eight-year-old son. I always wanted him to grow up as a Bolton fan. And I'll happily go watch them play in the Northern Leagues or what have you, but I don't expect him to do that. I'd already been struggling to keep his interest when we were in League One, with all his friends supporting Liverpool or Manchester City. So I can't imagine he'll stay on like me."