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Sunday 8 December 2019

Bury woes a worry for premier class

English football’s ecosystem is all interconnected – from the top flight to the lower leagues

Bury fans deliver a symbolic coffin reading ‘R.I.P. Bury F.C. 1885 ?’ and clock at Gigg Lane before the club went bust
Bury fans deliver a symbolic coffin reading ‘R.I.P. Bury F.C. 1885 ?’ and clock at Gigg Lane before the club went bust

When it comes to what happened in English football in the last week, it isn't just a concern for supporters of Bury and Bolton, it should be a worry for everyone involved in the game there.

And even though the big games in the Premier League this weekend, like Arsenal against Spurs, seem to be a long, long way from the likes of Bury, it's all connected and the Premier League should be concerned.

They might not think it, but the Premier League clubs need the likes of Bury. If League One and League Two clubs are allowed to die, there could be a domino effect.

It's a terrible thing to have teams going to the wall.

English football is built on the basis that every club in any league has something to aim for, that you can go all the way up the ladder, and if people start losing interest in the lower leagues, they will lose interest in the Premier League too.

For a lot of my time in England, I lived around Manchester. In that area it wasn't all about United and City. You had players who weren't quite good enough for those clubs so the academies at the likes of Bury, Oldham and Bolton were so vital to the game as it gave a chance to players to dream of playing in the Premier League one day.

Those smaller clubs are also vital for players. Glenn Whelan was a young player at Manchester City when I was there, City sent Glenn out on loan to Bury and he did well there, got games and first-team experience.

Everton and Liverpool send players out on loan to clubs like Bury in their area. It means the player can still live at home but can go out and get games and the club can keep track of him.

So when you look at the problems that Bury and Bolton have had this season, I fear that football in England is going down a dangerous road.

Money can't fix everything that's wrong. I am sure that the Premier League clubs support the lower league teams in some way when they send players on loan, or if they buy players, they are the foundation that keep the rest of the game alive

Worrying

And things can change very quickly. For a time when I played in the Premier League, Bolton were a big club, in Europe and competing for major trophies, so it's worrying to see how low they have fallen, though it's good that Bolton should survive, even though Bury are gone.

I doubt people in the Premier League now are looking at Bolton's case in too much detail, when you are in the top flight you are in a bubble, wrapped up in your own affairs. You don't look down at League One.

Premier League players this week will feel some sympathy for the Bury players who are out of work but they'll think about that for a minute and then focus on their own careers.

It's not the responsibility of Premier League players to donate money to the squad at Bury, but they could at least raise awareness. It would be good to see some show of solidarity from the other players in football this weekend, but it's not up to them to hand over part of their wages.

Attention needs to be drawn to the people in charge of clubs.

There is an issue for the Football League, they are supposed to have these tests about fitness to practise and both the owners of clubs that go under, and the authorities, have to take some of the blame.

Clubs should be able to fulfil their fixtures and pay their players, that's the bare minimum for being in football and that has to be adhered to.

Clubs should not be allowed to spend money they don't have. Every club in the lower divisions would love to be in the Premier League, but they shouldn't be able to spend and spend in a bid to get there.

The EFL have to be stronger, there needs to be more emphasis on Financial Fair Play in the lower leagues - you can't blame the Premier League for everything.

Yes, there could be a better way to share out the money that comes into the Premier League, but that doesn't allow other clubs to just spend their way into trouble.

The Premier League is a part of all this, but the Premier League players and clubs didn't cause the problems at Bury and Bolton.

But unless the authorities are stronger, everyone will suffer and the Premier League could suffer in the long run.

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