THE story of phoenix club Bury AFC will feature in a new BT Sport documentary which examines the emotional bond between supporters and their clubs.

Ours, which premiers on Tuesday, March 2 on BT Sport 1 at 10.30pm, looks in detail at a variety of ownership models in operation across the UK and features contributions from fans, players and owners from up and down the footballing pyramid.

The documentary is written and narrated by award-winning journalist, Michael Calvin, who is featured visiting the now empty Gigg Lane and interviewing lifelong supporter, James Bentley.

"I wanted to talk to someone who had lost their football club," said Michael, whose award winning football books include The Nowhere Men and No Hunger In Paradise. "I went to watch Bury AFC and James blew me away in terms of his articulacy and passion.

"I try to humanise the game of football and I'd never heard a fan talk about his club with such real emotion and clarity about what it meant to him and others like him.

"What it boils down to is flesh and blood and you could see the impact it had on him."

For many fans it seems like only yesterday that Bury finished the 2018–19 season as runners-up in League Two, earning promotion to League One for the 2019–20 season. However, the club were unable to begin the season because of longstanding financial difficulties and, on August 27 2019, were expelled from the English Football League. In December 2019 and February 2020, the club survived HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) winding-up petitions in the High Court, but in November 2020, the club was placed into administration.

Meanwhile, with no team left to watch, a group of fans formed a new club, Bury AFC, and applied to the North West Counties Football League for membership in 2020–21, which was approved in February 2020.

While the original club still exists its future is uncertain and the danger of liquidation remains, although some fans still hope for an eventual resurrection, dismissing the fan-owned newcomers from the equation.

"The depth of passion and the way the issue had split the fanbase and the town did surprise me initially," said Michael. "In many ways Bury was a typical football club that symbolised its community. Whatever form it takes, the football club is the key asset to that community.

"You get a really strong sense of the importance of a football club by looking at the Bury example - it reminds me of the old line by Joni Mitchell: 'you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone.'"

Through the programme, Michael looks at other examples of club ownership from AFC Wimbledon, who are held up as the quintessential fan-run model and of what can be achieved by a group of determined fans to Portsmouth who were run into the ground by a series of questionable owners, prompting the fans to step in and save the club from the brink of extinction.

"Football is in the process of shedding its skin in many ways," he said. "What we perceive to be the model of football - the league pyramid - is a Victorian institution and in many ways it is a miracle it has lasted as long as it has.

"It is inevitable that football will have some sort of realignment: you will have a European Super League in some form that will be shaped by the sort of things that a lot us dislike - greed, elitism and politics.

"By doing this film I've fallen back in love with the game because it reminded me that there are some really good people out there, doing the right things in the right way for the right reasons."

As for the future of Bury AFC, Michael hopes there can be some kind of reconciliation between the two factions.

He said: "From the Bury perspective, I understand the hurt that was caused by the mismanagement of a series of owners - Stewart Day and Steve Dale in particular - and the loss that some fans feel and the fact that people want to cling on to the old club.

"But what really affected me was actually going to the ground and seeing those scarves and shirts hanging there with mold on them. When you see that you realise to all intents and purposes the old club is dead - Gigg Lane had the feel of an untended grave and it really affected me deeply.

"As a result I relate to and almost instinctively support the idea of a club like Bury AFC. It has been over a year now and what really impressed me was the broader principles on which the new club will be run. I suppose what I'm trying to say is give Bury AFC a chance: they are trying to do the right things in the right way and while I understand why some people will oppose it, when you are watching Bury AFC you are watching a club that will hopefully come to represent the town and although that might take a while to be accepted, I think the principles it espouses and the people who are involved are doing it for the right reasons."

With the last 12 months having brought the importance of fans to the fore and the pandemic re-emphasising the role that their passion plays both in and away from the stadium, Michael hopes Ours can serve as a reminder of football's good side.

"We filmed at Bury AFC just before Christmas and what I loved about the experience was that there were only 150 people there but it felt like more," he added. "We'd all got out of the habit of going to grounds, but when we there it felt like a football ground, it sounded like a football ground and it looked like a football ground. It's a human experience that has been denied people due to the pandemic - that's what a football club is and if you asked me if Bury AFC felt like a football club I'd say yes.

"God-willing when we get back into grounds it is going to be an amazing experience for a lot of people and I hope people will watch the film and remember what it was like and what it can still be like to be a football fan."

Ours will be available on TV, online or via the BT Sport App. It premieres on Tuesday, March 2, at 10:30pm on BT Sport 1.

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