by The Boy Holty on September 9, 2013
In June 2013, a few weeks after Stewart Day and the new board took over ownership of Bury Football Club, they held a Fans' Forum at the Social Club. There were only 75 seats available but the event was filmed and put on the Bury FC website for general public viewing. A lot of people don't have access to the Shakers World feature so I've watched the videos, and made notes and here they are for your general perusal.
On the top table were Neville Neville (who chaired the evening), Kevin Blackwell, new chairman Stewart Day, Director of Operations Ian Kendall and Chief Executive Glenn Thomas. They each spoke for a while, and then Nev Neville fielded some questions from the audience.
Nev Neville opened proceedings with a bit of a history of how the club had reached the current situation but first he introduced the panel; Stewart Day, Ian Kendall and Glen Thomas, plus manager Kevin Blackwell who was thanked by Neville for being instrumental in convincing the new directors to come to Bury.
He said the club had been literally seven days from closing down and refused to criticise the previous board - they worked hard to keep the club going as best they could and only worked for the benefit of Bury FC. All members of the previous board had written off personal money in running the club.
All the recent problems came about in the last 12 months. The troubles started last July but circumstances worked against them. A £200,000 debt was in place at the time but plans to reduce that were dashed due to cash flow issues such as the Sheffield United game. In the previous year Bury FC generated £80,000 revenue from this game, this year the match was postponed and they ended up taking £15,000. There were other similar problems such as players being injured and paying players we couldn't afford (he didn't specifically name David Healy). The main crisis kicked in around Christmas time as a result of postponements and other unspecified issues.
Neville was called in by the previous board and they realised they needed to raise £800k to get the club into the next season as a result of lower income, lower attendances and higher costs.
They decided they would look for ten local business-people to put £100k each, they would each get 6% interest and £200k of the £1 million would be set aside to cover the interest. The club attracted seven such investors, so that was £700k guaranteed.
Then 2 consortia, described by Neville as 'local lads, you can probably guess their identity' approached the club. They wanted to do a proper cost plan for the future. In Feb 2013, they realised that the £700k would only last until June, after debts had been paid off. They had put a charge on the ground so they could have had security on their money, but it became clear that by July, the club would have had to sell the ground in order to make good on their financial obligations so Neville cancelled the agreement so that the club could keep the ground, their only asset.
The most important thing to Neville was paying the wages, to look after the players and the staff. They had already taken a PFA loan to get through January 2014 and Neville had 'managed to get a large sum of money to pay another month' (I wonder if this could have been Gary or Phil Neville) as the club was over the limit for repayments. In February & March, one of the directors paid the wages, in April they borrowed again to pay the wages.
They hit a brick wall in early March, so took another PFA loan. At this time, with the club constantly living from month to month on borrowed money and short term loans, they realised they needed to sell the club.
The only option at the time was two local builders who wanted to buy the ground. They offered £1.5m and the condition was that would loan Bury FC the money for two years and BFC would have had to get out of Gigg Lane. Neville and the directors said resoundingly 'No'.
The situation was so dire that they couldn't even afford to go into administration. They hadn't paid HMRC, VAT or the electricity bill, not to mention the wages. There had been an HMRC winding up order, which they had somehow got through then another PFA loan was taken out for three months and they put a charge on the ground.
The directors, meanwhile, were panicking that the shareholders would sue them for mis-managing the club. Accountants were costing £300 per hour but not giving them the answers.
Then one Friday afternoon, Stewart Day and Glenn Thomas came into the club and asked to speak to Neville and director Jim Lomas.
They spent a few days going though finances etc., and the following Wednesday confirmed interest and said they wanted to take over in June. Neville said they can't wait until June. At that time the club had seven days before they would be liquidated.
Neville took Stewart Day to Old Trafford to try to soften him up, and asked if he could do the deal in May. Day asked how much it would cost. Nev told him about half of the truth. The first thing the next day Day rang the HMRC and got a two week break, they came back to Neville and said they wouldn't let the club shut down so they would take care of May, that meant HMRC, wages, VAT etc. The next stage was to get director approval which was easy, and then they had to decide how he would take over. It had to be done by the Wednesday so Neville suggested that the existing directors resigned and the three new men appointed as directors and trustees and by the Wednesday Stewart Day had put the money in that he had promised. Day has put a charge on the ground to protect his money.
That concluded Nev Nevilles presentation, and brings us up to the present day.
Up next was Kevin Blackwell, who started by saying that his plans for last season never got off the ground. He said he didn't want to dwell on last season and proceeded to run through his vision of how the football side of the club should be run, he was aided by a PowerPoint presentation.
Coaches: All coaches at this level should have an A licence at least, but Blackwell wants his coaches to have reached Pro-Licence standard. Ronnie Jepson has a Pro-Licence.
New Gym: Too many players have been getting injured. Injured players were having to use gyms in and around Bury. He wants to introduce 'Pre-Hab' which is working in the gym before training. The new gym facilitates this and at his request, happened straight away when the new owners came in.
Training: He wants to develop a first class training centre - Lower Gigg has just one pitch. He identified a new training facility in Stockport including winter training provision. From November to February we have pre-booked it for 4 days a week so winter training schedule is fixed which should avoid scrabbling around trying desperately to find somewhere to train when the weather is bad. A proper training centre for Bury FC will help players can be the best they can be.
He then talked about his ethos for the club and the type of players he will be targeting:
Personality traits: Discipline, hard work, determination, will to succeed.
Professional presentation: Making people dress properly for work to give a professional outlook.
Strategy: A better scouting network, including experienced, qualified scouts
Youth coaching: players at all levels throughout the club will train in the same way so the younger ones will know how to behave when they reach the first team. This is something has says he's picked up from some of the top clubs.
He is introducing greater levels of Player analysis, match analysis and scouting
New players coming in must be able to play 35-40 games a season minimum, we had players last season who only played 4 or 5 games.
Looking at opposition strengths and weaknesses so the players know what to expect.
Essential basic skills in all new player recruits:
Pace (essential in the modern game), power & strength, intelligence and understanding, endurance, mental & fitness history.
We won't sign players based on reputations - at this point the name of Healy wasn't mentioned again, 'I wont say a name', said Blackwell and there was a bit of laughter. Everyone knew who he was talking about.
Goalkeepers: Minimum 6ft and we won't look at anyone else.
Full backs: Minimum 5.10. Must be able to defend the back post but also have the endurance and ability to get up and down the pitch.
Centre back: Powerful & quick with height.
He had similar requirements for centre midfield, wide midfield and strikers.
Thats the criteria he is using for his scouting and recruitment policy.
He is keen to build a new database of all players in the North West over 16 in the next 6 months, When he was at Leeds and Sheffield United he was picking up players released by bigger clubs.
Agent recommendations are not an acceptable means of recruitment. Bury FC must appraise every player before we sign them.
Full medical screenings will be used to make sure we know our new players (if its good enough for the top clubs, its good enough for us). 'If the players are wrong, the club is wrong'.
We have employed a performance manager - David Tivey from Everton, highly recommended to the club. He will be working with players at all levels and setting standards for the rest of the club. He's responsible for the fitness of every player and setting out the gym, He'll be producing individual packs for all the players with fitness routines.
Elite player development will focus on technique, athleticism, personality, understanding and speed.
Here he wrapped up his presentation, by summarising that the club is now in a position to take greater care over the type of player they employ. He's building the club the way he wants the club to develop.
Then Stewart Day was introduced to rapturous applause. He thanked Nev Neville and paid tribute to Kevin Blackwell and Jill Neville and said how honoured and humbled he was in his new position. He also expressed a dislike of Manchester United.
He reiterated how close the club came to being wound up. The club, he said, is now debt free. HMRC is paid off, the transfer embargo has been lifted and everyone has been paid.
He stated his desire to bring football back to the fans and to this end he decided to slash the prices, not just for this season but hopefully for future years too.
He wants to make Bury FC a Championship club off the field and to that end they have been doing some work on the interior of the club. Blackwell wants a new gym and he's got one, they've updated the manager's office, reception area, function suites and press offices.
The club had been previously built on sand, he said, but now they're rebuilding it on solid foundations. Player recruitment is being done slowly and carefully - and they're only signing players who fit in to the profile that we've set as described earlier by Kevin Blackwell.
He has very high ambitions for Bury FC and wants to take the club to as high a level as can be.
Next, Ian Kendall the new Director of Operations spoke. He stated that the reason the new board were so quiet at first was because they were so busy, working 12 hour shifts in getting the new regime up and running. He paid tribute to press officer Gordon Sorfleet and his dedication to the club, although he jokingly criticised his spelling.
He said his job was to look at systems and processes and to tighten things up. he said there's a light bulb in the club that has been on for 8 years and no-one can find the switch. He's putting in LED lights and movement sensors in order to reduce costs. He's worked recently with Huddersfield Town in developing their new training centres and intends to use his knowledge and experiences to do something similar with Bury.
The Social Club is losing £50,000 per year and he's going to try and turn that round. Last year the programme only made a profit on 3 matches. He's going to increase the revenue from advertising, by reducing freebies amongst other things (Most of the previous pitch-side advertising was given away for free by the club).
In the last 4 weeks the new board have brought nearly £100,000 worth of additional income into the club. £20k worth of new gym equipment, plus cars etc.
Glenn Thomas, the Chief Exec was last to speak. He talked about bringing all the entities together - the community programme, Forever Bury and the youth setup to work for the future of Bury FC together. Going to bring ladies football back to Bury, improving disabled facilities. On the commercial side, he referred to Perry Deakin, a consultant who was brought in to help turn the club around. He had a bad experience at Port Vale but has been recommended by most other clubs he's worked with.