A former director of Bury FC has chained herself to a drainpipe at the club’s stadium in a bid to save the beleaguered team from impending extinction.
The club, one of the oldest in the league, is due to be expelled from the English Football League (EFL) on Friday unless it can provide financial information showing it can pay its debts and adequately function.
Joy Hart, who was club director during the 2014-15 season, said that 135 years of history would be dead if the expulsion went ahead. Speaking to the Guardian while handcuffed outside the main entrance of the Gigg Lane stadium, Hart said she hoped to maintain her protest for “as long as possible” in order to draw attention to the club’s plight.
“I’m doing this because I love Bury football club so much, as do all the other supporters,” she said. “I’m just doing my bit.”
Hart said her original plan had been to shackle herself to the Les Hart stand, the south stand named after her father, a Bury FC player who devoted 44 years of his career to the club, but “I’m afraid someone at the club has locked the gates so that’s kiboshed that.
“I’m really on display to anyone who is passing. I’m protesting today because Bury football club is a football league club with 135 years of history. We’ve won the FA cup twice over the years, just like our esteemed neighbours, [Manchester] United, even your Liverpools and your Evertons. But we just don’t have their money.”
Hart accused the last two chairmans of “killing the club financially”. The current owner, Steve Dale, bought the club in December for £1 and is believed to have turned down offers from potential buyers.
Hart pleaded with the EFL to extend the Friday deadline. “Please give us longer time for someone or some persons or some clubs to put some money into us and save this 135 year football league club. We matter just as much as the clubs that are in the premiership.”
Hart said the club’s demise would “kill the town”, leading to the collapse of local businesses and pubs. “Every large town should have a football club where the community can come together. 135 years of history will be dead on Friday if Mr Dale doesn’t sell.”
James Frith, the MP for Bury North, who has lobbied the EFL to give the club more time to find a buyer, said he supported Hart’s protest.
Frith said: “I commend Joy’s protest today for what is the latest in a long line of statements of exasperation at the crisis facing our club. The desperation faced by so many across our town is real, as Bury FC faces extinction.
“Hope springs eternal and so must our continued effort to save Bury FC”, he added.
The EFL declined to comment on Hart’s protest but said in a statement on Tuesday evening that they “continued to be frustrated at the lack of significant progress that has been made by Mr Dale in providing the information required.”
Cancelling a match planned for Saturday against Tranmere Rovers, the fifth suspended fixture this season, the EFL reaffirmed Friday’s deadline. A statement said “we will continue to work with the current ownership in an attempt to achieve a resolution ahead of the Notice of Withdrawal deadline of Friday 23 August”.