This is not about Aston Villa. This is about Bolton Wanderers and Bury FC.
Two clubs, two assets to the community - are set to disappear. Two communities who often look to football for hope, or a distraction from the oppressive ignorance of a Government centered around one city - and one city only, will now be left looking into a sporting void, a black hole left behind thanks to the allowance of disaster capitalists to slide into ownership roles with nought but a whisper. The books have been cooked and now they are on fire. Rats flee the sinking ship with armfuls of gold, scrounged from every corner.
There is a chance for salvation, but that’s all it is. Chance. The last fling of a die when the chips are down. The fuelling stream of money has evaporated and through osmosis has probably ended up in an underserving pocket.
It’s fallacy that there is ‘no money to be made’ from football. There is lots of money to be made. Seemingly anyone can order a purchase of a debt-stricken club, load more debt onto it, cancel contracts, sell stadiums and then sell the club and walk away with a bag. Think of the owners, the wolves at the door - the ‘custodians’ with a knife in their pocket and a warm smile on their face. These aren’t your misguided types - the ones sick in the heart and overly emotional, with a caramelised centre of naivety - but the disaster capitalists. The types who cause the disaster, and profit from it. The ‘successful business’ owners that have no track record. The entrepreneurs with no public footprint. Those who slither in the darkness yet thrive in the burning spotlight. The grim reapers with wet handshakes and ill-fitting jeans.
Another fallacy is one of the saviour. The Bootcut Jesus who swans in, having bought your club for a single pound due to the goodness that exists in his heart. Don’t worry, the tax fraud doesn’t mean that he isn’t a good guy with great intentions.
No money to be made? Don’t be so silly. Yet at a time when there has never been more cash in the game, both Bolton and Bury are absolutely devoid of it. There is nothing. It has run out. Laissez-faire attitudes and the complete and utter faith in the English football market are the only barriers between a football club existing, and a football club dissolving. That’s a precarious and preposterous balancing act.
Dissolve. It’s a slow process. Bolton and Bury were nothing more than effervescent stomach relief tablets chucked into a glass by a dimwit who spent a night wanting nothing but control and fun - at the expense of everyone else. We don’t know how that could ever feel, swilling around and bubbling in that glass - nothing but a small relief to a rich idiot. To think that there are plenty out there who believe wealth is a sign of intelligence. You couldn’t be more wrong!
What now? The centre of this cannot hold. Not at all. The English Football League must seek radical action. It’s product is becoming diluted, and more clubs will follow. The Championship seems to have levelled out, with clubs lowering their spending - but the regulations and rules put against League One and League Two teams are put forward in utterly bad faith. Revelations? Second comings? No chance. Awful people with cash, or with the appearance of wealth will ride in, waving loopholes to crowds. They have never been more validated, and will surge forth with passion. The worst will take control should your club fall into peril, but this isn’t about your club.
There are very few fans in English football who are going through the process that has been shoved upon the supporters of both Bury and Bolton. More will follow, but right now - this isn’t our conversation. The voices we should be listening to are those of the clubs affected. We cannot make this conversation about our own experiences, because they are so irrelevant it’s almost offensive to compare. Listen to Bolton blogs. Listen to Bury fans. Do not bring up your team and your near misses in the wake of the other side’s slowly unfolding car crash. Our theories exist in the thoughtful hypotheticals, not in the grounded, sapping reality.
That reality? Season ticket holders, fans, members, armchair analysts, the faithful, the hardcore, the fairweather. All stand a chance of waking up on Saturday and realising that the weekend has never felt so hollow. 3pm is empty. The post-apocalypse has quietly arrived to Greater Manchester.