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SPECIAL REPORT: With an absent owner, unfulfilled fixtures and unpaid wages, Bury are on the brink of extinction after 134 years

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 4 days ago Jack Gaughan for the Daily Mail
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Bury is home to the largest amusement arcade in Europe. Over 250 machines are in that warehouse — pinball, videos, the lot. But they have nothing on the games being played a five-minute drive south, at the town's football club.

The Shakers, two-time FA Cup winners with 134 years of history, are now being manoeuvred with a joystick controlled by owner Steve Dale. Only this is not fantasy — Bury face the very real prospect of being kicked out of the Football League in eight days.

The basics are thus. Tuesday night's Carabao Cup match at Sheffield Wednesday was suspended, as is Saturday's home fixture against Gillingham, making three unfulfilled League One games already this season. Cancelling last Saturday's game at Accrington cost their League One rivals £100,000.

a bridge over a body of water: Bury and Gigg Lane are in a sorry state under owner Steve Dale, who bought the club for £1 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Bury and Gigg Lane are in a sorry state under owner Steve Dale, who bought the club for £1

Bury cannot compete without players — only six senior professionals are on the books — but they cannot sign any, either, as the club are under a transfer embargo. The only way of lifting the embargo is with cash.

Dale, who is not speaking to anybody at the club, has so far failed to provide evidence that he can continue to run Bury. This financial vortex may see the club drown without Dale's removal. He turned up for three days last week but had not been seen for at least six weeks before that.

Sources maintain to Sportsmail that Dale, an insolvency expert who bought the club for £1 last December, simply does not have the money. Wages have not been paid in full for months, although Bury refused to comment on that. Gigg Lane, the club's home since 1885, is a ghost ground.

It is a story of financial mismanagement dating back to previous owner Stewart Day, whose constant borrowing makes the list of creditors look like a shopping receipt. Key players are believed to have been earning close to £10,000 a week — an exorbitant amount for a League One club.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Members of Bury¿s staff wrote a statement on the club website imploring Dale to leave © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Members of Bury¿s staff wrote a statement on the club website imploring Dale to leave

When Sheffield United signed Leon Clarke from Bury in 2016 they could not match the striker's Gigg Lane wages and had to add another year on to his contract.

Jermaine Pennant, Ishmael Miller and Chris Brown, all with Premier League pedigree, arrived that same season and played 10 games between them. Brown never played for the club.

The money lavished by Day was unsustainable for a Manchester satellite club who, on average, attract fewer than 4,000 home fans. His open discussion of plans to build a new 20,000-seat stadium is painful in hindsight. This grand talk and gargantuan wage structure was juxtaposed with discussions over scrapping the club's matchday programme. Officials were so keen to cut costs they even drilled down to exactly how few pages they could get away with printing in order to save money.

'Steve Dale has told me that he had no previous knowledge of the club. This is a transactional thing,' Labour MP for Bury North James Frith told Sportsmail on Tuesday.

a sign on the side of a building: Bury have had all four matches of the League One season postponed over financial troubles © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Bury have had all four matches of the League One season postponed over financial troubles

'The only football he has presided over has been kicking Bury FC around wondering how he makes his money on a business deal that bears no relation to the concern and passion Bury has.

'This is the fault of the immediate past owner, the current owner and the EFL. They were culpable of being asleep on the job when Steve Dale came in. I'd expect they stop the clock on the exclusion while conversations are ongoing — on the proviso Dale ups and sells.'

In truth, there was no alternative to Dale at the time and the EFL have been asking the same questions for nine months without acceptable answers. Dale feels persecuted by the EFL. The fact that former manager Ryan Lowe masterminded promotion from League Two last season in such circumstances is staggering.

There is a tale of Dale forgetting to sign an official letter to the EFL about funding. Some north-west club owners have actively told Dale to sell. Extraordinarily, members of Bury's staff wrote a statement on the club website imploring him to leave.

a large stadium with green grass: The Shakers face expulsion from League One if problems are not resolved by August 23 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The Shakers face expulsion from League One if problems are not resolved by August 23 a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

Companies House records show that of Dale's 13 director appointments since 2011, eight have ended with a business being dissolved. 'He is running this like any other business that's going bust,' said one source.

Bury entered a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) last month and speculation swirls around the club that Dale might own as much as £7.6million of the debt — more than half of that purchased privately, cut-price, from Day. In that case, he would stand to earn £1.9m if new owners paid off unsecured creditors at 25p on the pound, as per the CVA.

Prospective new owners are becoming disenchanted by the whole sorry mess. Dale, now apparently open to a sale, provoked significant anger with an interview on Sky Sports News on Monday night in which he claimed there had been no offers for the club.

(Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Sportsmail understands he actually received a bid at 11:45am that morning and was afforded notice of its arrival over the weekend. Another group sent three expressions of interest this summer and were told to 'make their best offer possible' but a lack of financial information provided prevented them from doing due diligence.

Bury's threadbare squad is training as normal. Former Cardiff City manager Dave Jones is in a consultancy role and thought to be well-positioned for a takeover.

Bury have trained at Manchester City's old Carrington base rent-free for four years but were served an eviction notice after pitches were left in disrepair and there were a number of break-ins. Costs for all that could spiral to £300,000.

Bury must hope the damage to their club is not beyond repair.

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