Bury Football Club has until 23:59 BST on Friday to avoid being expelled from the English Football League.
The EFL has requested evidence that the Shakers can pay off creditors and have the necessary funding to make it through the League One season.
They have yet to play a first-team match in 2019-20 after having each of their first six fixtures suspended.
Owner Steve Dale said on Thursday there were four parties interested in buying the club.
EFL chief executive Debbie Jevans told BBC Sport that if a buyer did come forward they would consider a short extension to the deadline, but that “it’s very difficult to see how we can postpone more matches”.
“The clock is ticking, there’s no question,” said Jevans. “Nobody wants to see this club disappear out of the league, least of all me, which is why we are working 24/7 to try to stop that happening.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham this week wrote to Jevans asking for the club to be granted more time “given the urgency of Bury’s plight”.
Shakers fans have also staged numerous protests, with former director Joy Hart handcuffing herself to a drainpipe outside their Gigg Lane home and a coffin reading ‘RIP Bury FC 1885-?’ was placed at the directors’ entrance.
Founded in 1885 and first elected to the EFL nine years later, Bury were playing in what is now known as the Championship as recently as 1999 and have twice won the FA Cup.
How did we reach this point?
At the end of April Bury were celebrating promotion back to the third tier of English football, but they were already enduring a torrid time off the pitch.
Players and staff had often been paid late, while a winding-up petition filed against the club was adjourned three times before eventually being dismissed by the High Court on 31 July.
By then, creditors had approved a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) put forward by Dale, which was proposed to help settle some of their debts.
The CVA meant unsecured creditors, including HM Revenue & Customs, would be paid 25% of the money owed – but also triggered a 12-point deduction in the League One table under EFL rules.
Furthermore, the EFL has been unsatisfied Bury have given enough evidence of their “financial viability”, leading to a string of postponed fixtures while the organisation awaited “the clarity required”.
What needs to happen for Bury to survive?
The Shakers were given a 14-day deadline to provide the necessary information on 14 August, which is due to expire at 23:59 BST on Friday.
If the club are unable to satisfy the EFL’s request, their only other hope is that a buyer comes in with a rescue plan at the 11th hour.
Owner Dale said he would consider selling Bury after the club’s staff “implored” him to accept an offer last week – but then reportedly rejected a fresh bid on Tuesday.
Dale told BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday there were four interested parties – one of which has his backing – but time appears to be against any takeover going through.
What if Bury don’t meet their deadline?
The EFL reiterated this week that “if a solution is not found by the deadline, the board will authorise the necessary share transfer on behalf of Bury FC which shall be legally binding on all parties and result, regretfully, in the club no longer being a member of the League”.
In other words, the Shakers will be expelled from the EFL.
The club would then “be free to make an application to the Football Association to rejoin league competition further down the English football pyramid from season 2020-21”, according to the EFL.
How will it impact the league structure?
The EFL has already outlined how it intends to balance the leagues if Bury are expelled:
- The current League One season would be completed with 23 teams, with the number of relegation places reduced to three.
- Four teams will still be promoted from League Two this season, ensuring League One is rebalanced in 2020-21.
- Only one team will be relegated from League Two, with two to be promoted from the National League as usual.
Could the deadline be extended? Can they appeal?
EFL chief executive Jevans has confirmed they would consider extending Friday’s deadline by “24 to 48 hours” if a solution appeared to be imminent.
However, she also said a “long delay” was “not possible”, stressing that once a decision has been made Bury will “cease to be a member of the league”, meaning an appeal would appear unlikely.
When should we find out their fate?
With the deadline set for 23:59 BST, there is not likely to be any confirmation regarding Bury’s future from the EFL until Saturday morning.
But, if the EFL does decide to grant a short deadline extension, there may yet be an update on Friday.
Has a team ever been expelled from the EFL before?
It is 27 years since an EFL club was unable to complete a season, with Maidstone United and Aldershot both liquidated during the 1991-92 season.
No club has ever dropped out of the third tier before and Bury would also become the first FA Cup winners to have been expelled by the EFL.