Ward to quit as chairman

RESIGNATION TENDERED: Russell Ward has announced his intention to step down as chairman of Bury Town Football Club on Thursday
RESIGNATION TENDERED: Russell Ward has announced his intention to step down as chairman of Bury Town Football Club on Thursday
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Russell Ward is to step down from his role as chairman of Bury Town after becoming ‘disillusioned’ with the club’s expanding wage bill.

Vice-chairman Phil Smailes confirmed there was a difference of opinion between some board members and Ward over how the current playing budget should be managed and is seeking investment to take the club forward.

Ward — known as ‘Mr Bury Town’ — has been the Blues’ leader off the field for the past 13 years, but is due to leave his post on Thursday, although will stay on as a director.

“The club is paying over and above the sensible budgeted figure and players have been put on wages without my knowledge,” said Ward, who had a four-hour meeting with Smailes to discuss his concerns on Tuesday night.

Despite Bury’s insipid display in exiting the FA Cup to lower-league Thurrock on Saturday — and the subsequent loss of prize money — no cuts had been made from the playing budget as the Free Press went to print.

“It’s probably an issue where some members of the board and the current chairman have a different opinion,” said Smailes. “If we are in a situation where the only measures we can take are to cut the playing staff then that only can be a retrograde step.

“He knows my opinion, which is we should be managing our playing budget and staff with positive factors going on outside the club.”

However, Ward believes the current budget is ‘not sustainable in the long term’ and steps need to be put in place to avoid undoing the club’s good work of recent years that has seen them earn two promotions and lift four trophies in as many seasons.

“The club has been run in a sound financial way in my 13 years as chairman and I feel recently that has been taken away,” he said. “Too many decisions have been made without my knowledge, which has put the club in a tough financial position.”

Ward, whose resignation has not been formally accepted, added: “We don’t owe anyone any money and we do have some in the bank, but we are not in the healthy position we were 18 months ago.

“There is a chance (I will change my mind) if there is to be a change in the way the football side is run.

“I don’t necessarily mean from the manager’s point of view, but there have to be things put in place so we can’t put the club in a compromising financial position.”

Smailes, who indicated he would not be willing to take the chairmanship long-term, said: “Russell has got the club to where it is and we need to now, as custodians of the club, position it to take it forward to the next stage.”

He added: “There have been some exciting discussions going on about investment and additional people who have skills to help take the club forward.

“It’s a cloudy, dark day, but if things come to fruition then the club will be in a healthy position.”

The news of Ward’s intention to depart comes in the same week that the community football project — which would have provided Bury Town with a new home — has been sent back to the drawing board.

The chairman said this had not been a factor in his decision to tender his resignation, although Bury must now look at improving the facilities at Ram Meadow.

“It’s a blow, but hopefully with the prospect of the school being built up there and us sharing facilities we can get the project back on track,” he said.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council pledged to help the club with any improvements required at Ram Meadow, which would need to be upgraded to satisfy league requirements were Bury to be promoted.

Ward, who will retain his financial interest in the club with his director’s loan, has been overwhelmed with messages since news leaked of his intention to resign.

“A lot of people have come to talk to me about it and I would like to thank them for their kind words,” he said. “I’ve put in 18 years of hard work at the club — 13 as chairman — and I would be sad if it were to finish.”