Bury FC, formed in 1885, twice winners of the FA Cup, promoted last season to League One, have been expelled from the English Football League. The gutless EFL expressed their deep regret, their fit and proper person test neither fit nor proper, taking no responsibility for overseeing the sale of the club in December 2018, for a pound, to asset-stripper Steve Dale, hiding behind “the integrity of the competition” and not for the first time.
Steve Dale, who sold the club’s trophies to Bury Heritage, a company that he owns, who sold a £7m debt owed by the club to RCR Holdings, a company wholly owned by his daughter’s partner. Steve Dale, who didn’t pay the bills or the players’ or staff wages. Steve Dale, who on BBC Radio 5 Live said these things:
I never went to Bury.
It’s not a place I frequented.
So for me to walk away from Bury and never go back is a very easy thing to do.
I didn’t even know there was a football team called Bury to be honest.
I’m not a football fan.
If you’re a football fan then Steve Dale is a monster, and he’s not alone, the modern game breeds them: the Oystons, Sisu Capital, Francesco Becchetti, the list goes on.
Becchetti of course, tried to destroy Leyton Orient and it was a sustained and determined fans’ campaign, led by Leyton Orient Fans Trust, that was instrumental in the club being bought, some might say rescued, by Texan investor Kent Teague under the guidance of lifelong fan and Dunkin’ Doughnuts chairman, Nigel Travis.
But owners come and go, as do managers, players, trophies, good times and bad. The only constant is the fans, often generations of them.
When we wrote Brisbane Road, it was as fans. The song celebrates all the things that Orient’s not: nobody takes out a Sky Sports subscription to watch the O’s on the television, nobody picks Orient players for their Dream Team, and all the things that it is: Doug’s multiple message board personalities, Lee Steele’s winning goal at Oxford, visiting fans taking the piss out of Chris Tate’s hair and singing “we can see you washing up” to the residents of the newly-built flats in the corners of the ground are all parts of our heritage.
Two years ago, it could’ve been us. Today it’s Bury. In the next couple of weeks it could be Bolton Wanderers too.
Football is about community, social fabric, belonging, yet is bought and sold by billionaires and taken away, re-packaged and marketed to us as a product. We have been consistently let down by those trusted with the governance of our game and it has to change. We are not customers, we are fans, we are supporters. Join your team’s supporters’ trust or if there isn’t one, start one. Demand a voice before you think you might need it. And turn off your TV.
Solidarity with Bury fans today, let’s hope they can re-build.
On 29th April 2017, already-relegated Orient’s last home game of the season was interrupted in the 85th minute by a pitch invasion, the fans protesting that Francesco Becchetti was deliberately destroying the club. An hour later, once the stadium had been cleared, the game resumed and the players of both sides idly passed the ball around to complete the final eight minutes play. This farce was at the EFL’s insistence to “protect the integrity of the competition”.
So when was Orient’s season over? Last week after the Star Man Dinner kerfuffle? When Dean Cox and Unlucky Alf got injured? Not until the beer runs out?
Actually, that’s an easy one: It was officially over a fortnight ago at AFC Wimbledon when any over-optimistic talk of the play-offs was finally quashed. Well, you say easy. Not so easy if your mates from Derry have planned a trip over for the last weekend of the season, are playing gigs in Brighton and London on either side of your last fixture, if you’d really like to put on a gig so that you can play with them again, and there might, just might, be something on the last game.
This is where you find out which of your band mates (and fellow Orient fans) are optimists, which are pessimists and which are obsessed with football statistics. Thankfully, after extensive negotiations, we reached a position that the Yeovil game was only worth going to if promotion or relegation rested on the outcome and even then only promotion outright, not making or failing to make the play-offs. Which gives you a probability argument if you like maths or a football argument if you’re actually watching them play. So, as soon as the maths and the O’s woeful form allowed us, we booked tonight’s gig at the Veg Bar in Brixton.
We’re basking in the glow of a fabulous trip to Barnsley last weekend for the May Day Festival of Solidarity, and looking forward enormously to being reunited with Paddy & Diane and Robb Johnson. I’m looking forward to the venue too, having seen a Loud Women gig there earlier in the year, just a little worried about the PA, but we’ll be there early enough to sort any teething trouble out with any luck.
We’ve got loads to talk about too. Electoral success for Eamonn McCann and People Before Profit in Belfast, New London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the results of the poll on the future of Have I Got News For You. There will even be a few vaguely disappointed Orient fans to sing a song for.