BURY chairman Stewart Day believes his quest to bring Championship football to the JD Stadium could help double the average gate.
Home attendances in the season just finished fell on average by just 40 from their previous campaign, dropping from 3,178 to 3,138 despite relegation to League Two.
Those figures included a bumper crowd of 6,295 against local rivals Rochdale, and Day is confident a successful Bury side can attract those kind of attendances on a regular basis.
“When we were in the Championship last I think there was average attendances of 6,000, so there is no reason why they can’t come back,” he said.
“The population of Bury is 180,000, I believe, so if we can get five per cent of that coming down it would be a real success.
“It is something we are really working on. We want to get the attendances back up. We want a real atmosphere here, create a party mood and hopefully make this a fortress next year.”
In 1997-98 and 1998-99 – the last two seasons Bury spent in the second tier of English football – average gates were 6,177 and 5,476 respectively.
More recently, the figures have hovered between 3,000 and 4,000.
The crowds steadily rose during Alan Knill and Richie Barker’s time as manager, when Bury were promoted from League Two.
They jumped from 3,381 in 2009-10, when the club finished ninth in the bottom tier, to 3,730 the following season, when the Shakers won promotion, and peaked at 3,977 in their first campaign in League One.
The dramatic fall to 3,178 in 2012-13, when Bury were relegated from League One, marked a low point for the club as they struggled with financial problems.
But after a transitional season following Day’s buyout last summer, he now believes the football played under current manager David Flitcroft will help tempt the fans back.
Bury were unbeaten in 13 home games under Flitcroft, since his arrival in December, culminating in some blistering performances as they put four goals past both Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth in their final two matches of the season.
Now the chairman wants to continue that feelgood factor into the club’s 130th anniversary year. “If we can get that home form consistent then hopefully the fans will come back in their numbers,” said Day.
“We have got a real plan here and we want to go all the way to the very top. “For me, you can’t have a glass ceiling. We can take this as big as we want to take it. I would love to see 6,000 or 7,000 in here next season, coming to support the boys. “And I think that could be achievable.
“Against Portsmouth there was just short of 4,600 and it was a great atmosphere. The atmosphere was even better against Rochdale, when there was 6,000 at the JD. It makes such a big difference to the players to see the stands full.”