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"By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach 'to the ends of the earth'" (Acts 1:8) Pope Francis, Message for World Communications Day, 2014

Don’t bury football’s struggling teams, appeals chaplain

The Westminster Chaplain for Sport has urged the English Football League (EFL) to ensure that no other football fans will ever have to suffer the same agony Bury FC supporters experienced after their club was expelled from the league due to financial mismanagement.

“The hearts of many Bury fans are broken,” Mgr Vladimir Felzmann told The Catholic Universe. “Lessons – to flog that cliché yet again – must be learned.”

His comments came as Bury captain Neil Danns accused club owner Steve Dale of “destroying lives” after the 134-year-old club, nicknamed the Shakers, were expelled from the EFL on Tuesday, 27th August.

Fellow League One side Bolton Wanderers were also at risk of suffering the same fate due to financial failings but their survival was secured after the completion of a last-minute takeover deal by Football Ventures (Whites) Limited.

Mgr Felzmann, who is also CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, warned the EFL board that more clubs may face the same fate as Bury if the league doesn’t act now.

“Millionaires, spending as though they were billionaires, come a cropper,” the chaplain said, warning that the entire EFL isn’t able to enjoy the same “vast incomes” as the Premier League, which is “capable of paying absurdly high salaries” due to colossal earnings from televised games, amongst other lines of revenue that lower league clubs are unable to obtain. “Maybe the EFL Board should run courses on financial management for the owners of its clubs,” Mgr Felzman said.

“Mortgaging stadia is like selling family jewels with that strategy’s inevitable Après nous, le déluge: a déluge of tears, no matter how glorious the past.”

Bury captain Danns told Talksport that “serious questions have got to be asked”.
“When you see the devastation of the fans I just think I have to say something. It’s unbelievable. I still can’t believe it,” he said.

Danns also claimed the Shakers EFL expulsion could be blamed on one person in particular – owner Steve Dale. Asked if he had a message for Dale, Danns said: “I would say look what you’ve done.

“This should never have happened. If you thought you could not move this club forward in a positive way you should never have taken over because you’ve literally destroyed lives, because that’s what this football club meant to so many fans.”

Picture: A Bury fan at the gates of Gigg Lane, Bury. (Peter Byrne/PA).