The Pompey Supporters’ Trust is deeply saddened by the expulsion of Bury from the EFL. A 134-year-old club with 125 years of league history gone in an instant thanks to bad owners and ineffective regulation by the football authorities.
We feel for the Bury fans, ordinary decent people who have supported their local club for decades and now have to deal with the loss of a family member. And we feel for the staff of Bury that have lost their livelihoods.
And we remain concerned for the fate of Bolton, and their fans, and hope that they will survive.
We faced a similar fate 6 years ago. That should have been a wake-up call to the FA and the EFL. We should have been the last time that a football club got close to extinction, let alone actually being expelled. However, a culture of complacency has stayed in football.
It is a complacency that has seen a totally ineffective system of regulation of clubs. A complacency that has seen virtually all of the owners of the 72 clubs in the EFL reject any effective form of regulation of their activities. A complacency that has seen the FA abdicate their responsibility for the running of club football in England.
The EFL has completely and utterly failed in its duty of care to their most important stakeholder – the fans. It fails by not insisting that its member clubs are transparent in their finances. It fails by not insisting on a code of conduct for owners. It fails by allowing the situations to prevail that we’ve seen at clubs like Bolton, Charlton, Coventry, Blackpool, Oldham, Morecambe, Sunderland, Notts County, Northampton, Macclesfield, Reading, Oxford, Southend, Birmingham, Leyton Orient, Ipswich and tragically Bury.
However, we must recognise that the EFL is nothing more than a collection of clubs. It’s rules and policies are those that the owners of the clubs collectively decide to abide by. These owners have made it clear time and time again that they will resist any firmer form of regulation over their activities. Only one owner dares put his head above the parapet to call for better regulation – Andy Holt of Accrington Stanley. He is a lone voice. We hope that other owners are willing to embrace effective regulation but unless they come out publicly to support it then they risk condoning the current ineffectiveness.
For our own part, the PST members voted two years ago to entrust the stewardship of our club to Michael Eisner and his Tornante company. So far, he has proved to be a good steward of Pompey and we have every expectation that will continue. But we must all recognise that the future of every club is tied to the health of the entire league and we call upon him now to speak out publicly in favour of stronger regulation of football clubs and owners and to support actions within the EFL to do so. Good owners have nothing to fear from stronger regulation and if it weeds out the bad owners then everyone benefits.
The fan bodies of Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation have long campaigned for better governance of football. Supporters Direct warned of this 2 years ago and presented a plan for better regulation containing a proposal for the FA to take up its responsibilities to manage the game.
These two bodies have now merged to form the Football Supporters’ Association and the campaign continues. Either the FA commits to being part of the solution to preventing this from ever happening again or it becomes part of the problem. If the FA will not regulate football, then we will look for a solution outside of Football via legislation. This must be the last time that clubs are allowed to fail in this way.
Finally, we repeat our sorrow for Bury fans. We hope that a new Bury can be formed from the ashes and one day regain its rightful place as Wimbledon and Accrington have done. We are here to offer any help and advice that might be useful to our friends at Bury’s Supporter Trust, Forever Bury.