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Bury St Edmunds: Tough financial times at Bury Town as boss urges folk to get behind the team

10:36 09 January 2014

Archant

The chairman of West Suffolk’s biggest football club has called on the town to help it through tough financial times – a call The East Anglian Daily Times and its sister title The Bury St Edmunds Mercury, are backing.

Falling attendances, the economic crisis and an unexpectedly early FA Cup exit are among a host of reasons that have led Bury Town chairman Russell Ward to tighten the purse-strings at Ram Meadow in recent weeks, including asking some players to take a pay cut.

Mr Ward said that getting supporters through the gate could be the catalyst for turning the club’s financial fortunes around and the EADT and Mercury have launched the “We’re Backing Bury Town” campaign to boost one of the county’s most successful clubs.

Mr Ward said: “The short-term answer to help us immediately is to get people through the gate.

“People coming into the ground buy food, spend money behind the bar and have a go on the raffle. More support makes it easier to get more sponsorship as well, as more people are looking at the adverts.

“Our biggest way of raising money is getting spectators through the gate. It is an obvious one, but the starting point has to be getting more support.”

Bury Town’s average crowd during their championship-winning season of 2009/10 was 530, which has dropped to around 320 for the current campaign.

Mr Ward, who has been chairman for more than 13 years, said: “Two hundred people have stopped coming. Averaging that over 25 home games a season, that is going to make a lot of difference financially.

“We’re not on the verge of going bust – we’re being proactive rather than reactive. We’ve had to tighten our belts.” Other reasons for the club’s cashflow problems include an exit from the FA Cup in the first qualifying round at home to Thurrock, who play one league below Bury in the non-league pyramid.

The club had budgeted to advance at least a couple rounds, with this loss costing potentially thousands of pounds in prize money.

A proposed move to a new stadium in Moreton Hall also fell through, which meant spending money on refurbishments at Ram Meadow.

In addition, commercial manager Mike Rayner gave up his post last year and has only recently been replaced by Dan Bush and Clive Boughton in a bid to beef-up the club’s commercial activities.

There have been a number of high-profile departures from the club in recent weeks, although Mr Ward hopes players from the club’s academy at West Suffolk College – whose former players include Millwall’s Liam Trotter, Cambridge United captain Ian Miller and a host of Bury Town’s current squad – may seize their chance.

“Some of the higher earners have gone and we’ve now got the squad down to something we can manage financially,” Mr Ward said.

“The problem we’ve got is when you do play at a higher level of football, wages go up, it makes your players more valuable and to try and compete means paying them market value. You can get carried away and we have to be realistic.

“Because of the higher level, we’ve had to look and get more experienced players, but now we’ll be turning round and saying ‘you’ve got your chance, show us what you can do’, which is something we did really well.”

EADT editor Terry Hunt said: “I started my career in journalism as the EADT’s Bury Town reporter way back in 1979.

“It’s a great club, and deserving of more support. Another couple of hundred people through the turnstiles would make all the difference. We’re asking people to really get behind their local football club.’’

A proposed move to a new stadium in Moreton Hall also fell through, which

meant spending on refurbishments at Ram Meadow.

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