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Bury want fairytale return to football next season with fans owning 51 per cent of club in German-style model

BURY want their fairytale return to football next season to be a blueprint for EFL clubs to follow.

The Shakers are going to use a German-style model where fans will be guaranteed a 51 per cent share of the club with a 49 per cent cap on financial benefactors.

It means no single person can come in, recklessly run up huge debts and scarper – like Stewart Day did when he sold Bury to Steve Dale for £1 in 2018 with debts of at least £12million.

The club were booted out of the League 17 months ago after Dale failed to provide proof of funds ahead of their 2019-20 League One campaign.

But on Friday, fans group Est.1885 signed heads of terms with administrators to buy their Gigg Lane stadium as well as the intellectual property of Bury FC, trading name, history and assets.

The Shakers, who somehow avoided liquidation after surviving three winding-up orders, will clear its football creditor debts in accordance with FA guidance.

And if the deal goes through, as is expected, the new owners should have the keys before Christmas.

And the revived club (not a newly-created one by the way, it will be the original two-time FA Cup-winning outfit) are expected to be placed in a league next season by the FA. 

I understand they are likely to be slotted into either National League North (tier six) or Northern Premier League (tier seven) because the club are the original 1885 entity and not a phoenix so are not required to start from the bottom. This is covered in the FA’s rules.

The biggest financial benefactor behind the Est.1885 takeover is lifelong Bury fan Peter Alexander, who lives in California and works in Silicon Valley.

Manchester born-and-bred Alexander, 59, moved to the States in 1984 after graduating as an electrical engineer from Bradford University and now runs global marketing for American-Israeli cyber security giants Check Point.

But he regularly attended matches at Gigg Lane from the age of five with his grandfather and ardent Shakers fan Arthur Ashworth.

He told me: “I lived with my mum and grandparents in Greater Manchester. They were all from Bury.

“My grandfather, born in 1900, was a huge fan and had seven brothers that were all Bury supporters. Sadly three or four of them died during the First World War.

“I was taken to games with my grandfather telling me it would add colour to my cheeks.

“I remember the ground vividly and how Bury FC was so dear to the community. That is still apparent today.”

Alexander followed their fortunes from across the pond – lunging from one financial crisis to another before the club was stripped of its 125-year EFL status.

And this inspired him to not just get involved but help inspire an end to boom-and-bust football in England.

He said: “I didn’t want Bury going back into the cycle of someone putting their money in, they spend it all, they leave, the club faces going bust again.

“I did research into football investment models. You have the ‘billionaire Subbuteo’ of the Premier League then a load of non-profitable or break-even clubs with owners and investors trying to get something out of it.

“When I started meeting with fans groups Forever Bury and Est.1885, I told them I’d be happy to get involved and make an investment“

But I said we can’t use the word ‘investment’ because it’s an immediate fallacy. We shouldn’t be attracting people who want a financial return – that’s a bad model. You should never be beholden to anyone.

“I told them we must look at something that’s not a charity but a mid-ground, which is the 51-49 model the Germans have. 

“When you read about putting money into football it’s all from the clubs and fans’ perspective and not from the investors.

“So it became clear to me you shouldn’t expect any financial return.

“Maybe you can own part of a club but not take money out.

“I’m doing a Masters programme at the London School of Economics on behavioural science and one of the professors, Paul Dolan, talks about altruism, which is the practice of helping other people for no gain yourself.

“He spoke about how David Beckham should get a knighthood as recognition for his vast charity work because it encourages others to do the same.

“So if you can make football a place where you can have ownership of a club without wanting a financial return, help a community and get recognition, that would be a great model."

Alexander says legally-binding text will be written into the constitution of Bury FC that prohibits anyone changing the club being 51 per cent owned by the fans.

He said: “They asked me what I was looking to get out of it?  Nothing. I just want Bury FC to be self-sustaining, that either breaks even or better.

“And if that means sometimes we’ll have to be relegated then so be it. “The model we’re using will see benefactors bring more capital into the club but that will only dilute the 49 percent ownership, not the 51 guaranteed to be held by the fans. 

“And the ground will never be allowed to be sold either.

“I hope it inspires other clubs to go the same way."

One group of fans formed Bury AFC, which was intended as a phoenix club, and they play in the TENTH tier.

Alexander wants them to unite with the original Bury club at Gigg Lane and said: “We feel aligned with them in terms of their model of being fan-owned with provisions for investment.

“The combination of them and ourselves would be fantastic so we hope they can unite behind us.

“One of the conditions of me being involved was we’d do everything to try to bring the entire Bury fanbase together.”

And for Alexander’s part, Bury FC’s return to football next season will be in memory of his grandfather and brothers.

He said: “Bury FC has been a source of pride to this town for more than a century.

“My relatives served in the Lancashire Fusiliers, some of them losing their lives on the battlefields of Europe. 

“Helping to save a club that they cherished is a fitting tribute to their memory.”

Bury planning a good Gigg

GIGG LANE will stage Bury Ladies and legends matches in the new year as the club builds for its emotional return.

Est.1885 have already had contact from other clubs – including Manchester City – to arrange friendlies at the ground.