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Statement – Bury AFC Q&A

Following tonight’s meeting, we feel it necessary to provide our answers to the questions we posed. Please see these Q&A’s below: 

Question: How will you ensure that Bury’s football club has security of tenure (a long-term lease at minimum)

Answer: We take the view that it’s important to get it right: if it takes time to secure a long-term lease or the ownership of Gigg Lane, and so have arranged a groundshare in principle with a nearby club. 

Every Bury fan wants to return home, but we think every Bury fan also knows that doing it isn’t going to be easy because it’s still owned by the existing Bury FC. However, we expect this will change in the new year, and we are prepared to work with whoever the owners of the ground are – and anyone else who can help us – to secure at the absolute minimum a long-term and secure lease to play at Gigg Lane. Ideally we want to buy it and own it (and by extension, all of us), but we are also prepared to take our time to get it right, and work with fans, others in the town, the council, and local business to do that.  

Question: Please tell us of any discussions that you have had with Bury Council and now ex-MP James Frith about Gigg Lane, and the dates you had them. Have you planned any meetings yet with James Daly, the new MP for Bury North?

Answer: Until the recent election we worked with James Frith’s ‘Rescue Board’ which included representatives of the Council. Independently our Ground Acquisition group have talked to officers (though not elected members) at Bury Council. One of our team has also made contact with new MP James Daly since the election. James Daly recently released a video about his progress on this issue which was relayed to us. Although we haven’t yet directly approached or met him, we are now in the process of organising a meeting with him.

We would welcome more conversations with the council and other interested parties.

Question: If you are going to purchase Gigg Lane, you will need to ensure that you can either purchase it outright, or you can finance the purchase of it: can you please outline your approach to doing this, including how you will pay for any costs relating to this, and how if applicable, you will recover those costs?

Answer: The first and most important thing for Bury AFC is to remove the uncertainty that Gigg Lane brings by groundsharing in the short term. This ensures we can deliver our business plan. We are well progressed in discussions with a number of clubs about just such a groundshare, which also has the advantage of being in the borough of Bury. 

As far as Gigg Lane is concerned, as you will understand, the situation is no clearer for us than it is for any of you. We recognise that fans are desperate to return to our home, and it is a fundamental objective to return to this ground as soon as we can. But we won’t pretend we currently have the resources to purchase it, but we are convinced that re-establishing the club is step one in that journey home. Without a club, there is no opportunity to return home.

We have already looked at what finances would be required in various different scenarios:

Scenario One: purchase it now

  • At this moment in time: given the ground is still owned by Bury Football Club, the ground would cost around £3.5m to purchase. We estimate that it would cost around £200,000-£250,000 a year to pay for it. 

Scenario Two: purchase it later

  • This is we believe the most likely scenario, because it is very likely that the stadium will need to be sold to pay money owed by Bury Football Club when the club is liquidated. If/when that happens, then the ground will we believe cost less than it might do now, potentially around £2m. That would make paying for it significantly easier.

In terms of where we might be able to get the money from, there are various ways of doing it, some simpler than others. We are currently looking at a mixture of raising money through things like crowdfunds and like almost anyone who might want to buy Gigg Lane, by borrowing the money to do it. There are also very early indications that local politicians might support an approach to new central government grant giving programmes. 

All of this is where the financial strength of the football club will be important, and the reason we believe that it’s vital to ensure that we begin building that strength now.

Question: How will you ensure you that the stadium regulations that Gigg Lane will be subject to are met without any problems? 

Answer: Because Gigg Lane will still be subject to many of the rules that applied to it in the EFL, we have to ensure we get the right advice about how the safety certification works, and how to operate the stadium within the rules and the law. We have also taken some initial advice from an expert in the field, and we have been told that there might be some things that we can do to make running the stadium a little easier. We are very wary that people are desperate to return home as soon as is possible – we are too – but we want to make sure that we understand what we might need to do when that happens, including costs and regulations.

It’s also true that even with a club with a lot of volunteers, how laws like the minimum wage might still affect us need to be understood properly. We are already speaking to a number of other football clubs about stadium management, staffing, training and support for stewards and other volunteers and employees. 

Question: What is the status of your application to The FA? 

Answer: Obviously as everyone now knows, we have already made an application as Bury AFC to The FA to be placed in the North West Counties League from next season. The FA County we have applied to is the Manchester FA. Part of the reason for this is to keep costs down. We could have applied to the Lancashire FA, and play in the Lancashire Senior Cup, but it is far more geographically spread, as far north as Barrow for example.

Question: What do you propose the ownership model of the club will be?

Answer: Bury AFC will be operated under the principles of one-member-one-vote. We would of course want to encourage local businesses and supporters to sponsor or partner with the club, as this brings in extra revenue to help us to rebuild, but the ownership will stay with the fans.

Question: What are your financial projections for the first year of trading? 

First of all, we base the projects on nineteen home-matches, nineteen away matches, and two cup matches. We’ve outlined the overall revenue and costs below.

Income

Category Year One Year Two Year Three
Revenue (includes matchday tickets, season tickets and things like merchandise) £211,367 £271,725 £344,409
Total home matchday costs £81,320  £98,363  £149,226
Total away matchday costs £28,310  £42,807 £91,181
Total cup matchday costs £8,560  £10,354  £15,708
Total wages (including players) £57,000  £59,850 £62,422
Total other costs (including training facilities, league membership, insurance) £15,900  £16,695  £17,529

It’s vital to remember the following:

  • Bury AFC won’t receive the kinds of income from the league we play in that Bury FC did from broadcasting and sponsorship from the EFL. 
  • Bury AFC won’t be paying full-time players, and won’t need to pay them throughout the year. At the level of football we will need to start at (North West Counties Premier), clubs generally only pay for the season itself, and the vast majority of players are not on contracts.
  • Bury FC had a strong tradition of volunteers helping to run the club. We already have a team of 300 supporting the work of Bury AFC in the following areas: Governance (the way Bury AFC is run), Legal, Finance, Fundraising and commercial, FA application and liaison, Welfare and community. We would hope that new volunteers in areas such as matchday would be prepared to become involved.

Question: What are your projections for attendances for the first season? 

Answer: We’ve planned for average league attendances of: 1250 (year one), 1500 (year two), 1750 (year three). It’s vital to ensure that we do try to predict the numbers of fans that might turn out to watch Bury AFC, as that’s how we then work out how much money we might receive in income, and therefore how much we might spend. However, it is important that we remember that, like any forecast of this type, this is just a guide to how we think things will work out at the moment.

Question: Who will you be employing to run the club, including academy, community work and other areas?

Answer: In terms of staffing on the pitch or off it, we are first and foremost realistic. Employing anyone full-time will only be done if it is absolutely necessary. When it comes to any part of a football club – whether first team, academy or community coaching – there are lots of ways to do it that don’t require employing a member of staff full-time. We also need to remember that we’re building something together as fans, and that takes time. 

The problem as everyone will know is also that we won’t receive funding from anyone to establish or run an academy or our community work, so anything we do in this area has to be done with proper thought behind it, the right advice, and then the resources we need – including money, but also support and help from other charities, business, Bury Council and others. We’re optimistic about what we can do as a club, but we also know how easy it is to over-promise, and we will not be doing that.

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