Jill Neville, the former Bury football club secretary who resigned last week after 35 years’ service, wrote to the owner Steve Dale when she left, calling on him to surrender ownership and control immediately so that the club can remain in the EFL and be saved.
In a heartfelt letter to Dale, a copy of which the Guardian has seen, Neville said Dale had never answered her questions about his “agenda, plans and vision” for the club, and that she feared that if he would not step aside, Bury would fold.
“It is becoming more obvious to me that while you are at the club, that the EFL will not grant membership,” Neville said in her letter, sent on 16 August, as Bury faced a week’s deadline from the EFL for Dale to provide proof of his funding or be expelled. “So I urge you to resign the Ownership/Control [sic] with immediate effect, and, with the 7 days notice given by the EFL from today to finally ‘chuck us out,’ give others a chance to find someone, or you find someone, who will buy/takeover and pass/comply with the ‘Owners and Directors Test’ required to take the club forward.”
Neville, mother of Gary, Phil and Tracey and wife of the club’s late commercial director Neville Neville, a Bury stalwart who died in 2015, had been the secretary at Gigg Lane since 1984. She handed her resignation to Dale after he gave a live interview to TalkSport on 15 August, in which the club captain, Stephen Dawson, complained on air that he was in financial difficulties because the players’ wages have not been paid, accused Dale of being a liar and called on him to go.
In her letter, in which she also called on Dale to go, Jill Neville wrote: “I am working with those that are trying to save Bury Football Club as I have done all my life either by supporting or working at the club. I am not sure, having asked you on numerous occasions but had no reply or explanation, what your agenda, plans and visions are for the club, only ‘to save our club’ and that is what I want to happen.
“The small amount of staff we have had at the club over the last few months have done their best to make sure the club is kept going but I feel that that has been to no avail.”
Making her call for Dale to “resign the ownership/control with immediate effect” so that other people could take over and try to ensure the club remains in the league, Neville wrote: “The Football Club is one of the founder members of the League [sic] and a large part of the community in the town and, at this point, we must continue and fight to make sure that this happens and I will do everything in my power to make sure that it does.”
People who know Jill Neville well say that her resignation after so many years illustrates in itself her despair at the unprecedented predicament the club is in. The EFL executive chair, Debbie Jevans, emphasised on Thursday that as all of Bury’s first five fixtures have been suspended because the league is not satisfied that Dale has the required financial resources, the deadline of 11:59pm on Friday remained firm.
The EFL said in a statement on Friday: “As of 5pm there has been limited progress made either by the current ownership providing the required evidence in regard to outstanding financial information, or through a change of control being achieved with new owners.”
Dale has been approached for comment about Jill Neville’s letter.