THE Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, has thrown his support behind the campaign to save Gigg Lane on a visit to Bury.

Mr Jenrick took time to stop at Bury FC's home ground as he made a whistle-stop tour of Greater Manchester ahead of the region's mayoral and local elctions this week.

Speaking outside the ground, which is of the world's oldest professional football stadiums, Mr Jenrick said he would do all he could to back Bury North MP James Daly's vow to bring the arena back into use following the Shakers' plunge into administration in November 2020.

"I have speaking to James and I know Bury Conservatives have been campaigning to transform this site as somewhere jobs can be created and we can have community assets here," said Mr Jenrick. "We want to bring forward the funding so that can be realised. That's why we created the levelling up fund which ensures there are billions of pounds for communities like this to tap into and create great projects.

"I want the local council, which we will hopefully be controlling after the local elections, to put in a bid to that fund to help secure that money."

Gigg Lane has not hosted a football match since May 4, 2019 and Bury FC was thrown out of the Football League the following August.

But Mr Daly believes the £150m Community Ownership Fund, designed to 'help community groups buy or take over local community assets at risk of being lost', could be the answer for the stricken ground.

"Local football teams and sites like this are incredibly important to communities and we understand that," said Mr Jenrick. "That's why James raised it with me and my colleagues in Government immediately when the issue arose and we have been working together on what we can do to move this forwards. That's why we created the levelling up fund: so we can bring forward money to help realise those ambitions and I very much hope the council will put in a bid to that fund to secure up to £20m of investment for this site."

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to reveal whether he signalled his endorsement of the European Super League (ESL) when he met the chief executive of Manchester United, Ed Woodward, shortly before the plans were announced, Mr Jenrick said his leader's consequent denouncement of the controversial proposals proves the Conservatives are on the side of the average football fan.

"It was the decisive action by the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that killed those proposals within hours of them being announced.

"They set out a very strong plan - stronger than any other European country did - which helped to turn the tide and persuaded those bosses and owners of those clubs to pull back and not go forward with the proposals.

"We killed that proposition precisely because it would have killed football. Here in Bury we have a local club that is really popular and really important to the local community and we want to do everything we can to support it.

"Local clubs like Bury FC are absolutely integral to their communities. They are the beating heart and give identity to towns and cities across the country and that's why I've come here again to discuss the future of the site.

"I want to work with James and the Conservatives in Bury so they put forward a very strong bid for that funding which could secure investment for this site and bring it new life and jobs."