Bury and Bolton: A message from a football club that bounced back

Grace McGibbon, Clydebank FC chairman, with Bolton and Bury badges Image copyright David Brockett/Clydebank FC/Getty Images

"At the time it'll feel like the worst thing in the world but, just maybe, it's the start of something new."

Grace McGibbon knows how it feels to lose a football team. But she also knows how to start one.

So that's her message for League One's Bury, who've been thrown out of English football after money problems. Bolton could also go the same way if they can't find new owners.

Grace's own team Clydebank FC disappeared from her town in 2002.

Now she's the chairman.

Image copyright David Brockett/Clydebank FC
Image caption Grace McGibbon went from fan to chairman of Clydebank FC

"Clydebank was a massive football club," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"We played in all divisions in the Scottish league. For a small town we had a massive football club and a massive football heritage."

But the club got into financial problems and was eventually sold. The new owners moved it to another town and renamed it. She says it was "heart-wrenching".

"The fans were from all different backgrounds, but the one thing we had in common was Clydebank Football Club," she says.

"All of a sudden that's taken away from you and you have all these people who have nothing to do on their Saturday afternoons."

Image copyright Stevie Doogan
Image caption Clydebank FC celebrate a goal

Two seasons later, in 2003, Clydebank was brought back by the fans, who now own it together.

It's something Grace would encourage Bury to do now, and Bolton if they have to.

"You can be reborn," she tells Newsbeat. "You can start again. It won't be the same, it'll be a lot of hard work and a lot of heartache but it's not the end."

Clydebank's members pay an annual subscription to own an equal share in the club.

They play non-league football and it's run entirely by volunteers who look after things like the finances, advertising and sponsorship.

"It's everything from making cups of tea and serving pies at half time. It's giving as much or as little time as you can," she says.

"I'm the chairman, I'm the treasurer - it's almost a full-time job sometimes.

"We've got people who source the merchandise, there are people who source team kit... people have to find a whole new set of skills just to get a team up and running.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bolton Wanderers and Bury FC mascots stand together in support of each other

On Tuesday, Bury were expelled by the English Football League after a takeover bid collapsed.

Bolton were given 14 days to find a buyer or prove they've got the money to finish the season, or they'll be kicked out too.

Grace reckons both clubs have fans with enough passion to follow Clydebank's lead.

"It may be the start of something new. It'll not happen instantly but their support base is ten-fold what ours is.

"They have people there who can do this, they just need to realise it, rally together and have a bit of self-belief."

How have other teams been resurrected?

Lancashire team Accrington Stanley had a six-year gap from going bust in 1962 to starting over in 1968. Showing that teams can come back, they were promoted to League One for the first time in their history during the 2017-18 season.

Supporters stepped in to save Wimbledon FC in 2002 after an FA ruling relocated the club to Milton Keynes. Six weeks later, fans created AFC Wimbledon to preserve the 104-year history. They now play in League One as well.

Darlington FC is another club that was saved by supporters when in 2012 the club went into administration for the third time in its history. Since then it's been fan-owned.

Update 9th October 2019: An earlier version of this article included a reference to Rangers, which was subsequently removed because it oversimplified the Rangers case.

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays - or listen back here.

Related Topics

More on this story