THIS is the moment Shakers fans have been waiting nearly 18 months to see.

Bury's Est 1885 officials have been given the keys to Gigg Lane, after exchanging contracts with the administrators last Friday.

And earlier today supporters' representatives took their first look around Bury FC's home since August 2019.

Harry Pickup, from Est 1885 said: "This is a very significant and exciting day for us. It was quite emotional for us to step out onto the pitch and see what we've got to do now." 

The move has come just days before councillors are being asked to consider making a £450,000 investment in the club at a town hall cabinet meeting.

Before Christmas it was announced Bury FC Supporters Society, aka Forever Bury, had secured £1m from the Community Asset Fund, towards seeing football restored at the historic ground.

And before the weekend it was confirmed a long-anticipated deal for Bury FC to return to Gigg Lane had moved a step closer.

A Forever Bury spokesman said: "The deal to acquire Gigg Lane and the club’s history, name and memorabilia has moved a significant step closer.

"Contracts have been exchanged with completion expected at the end of January. We have been granted a licence to begin our clean-up of the ground immediately. We’ll be calling upon all volunteers shortly."

Councillors have been recommended to approve discussions on the local authority making a key contribution to plans for the new Bury Community Stadium.

Council leader Cllr Eamonn O'Brien and Cllr Charlotte Morris, in a joint cabinet report, say: "The society has obtained £1m as a grant funding offer from government. In addition to this, a group of fans identified as ‘key founders’ will collectively invest a substantial sum.

"The society have stated that they have had positive discussions with the Football Foundation, who provide grants for grassroots football in England, regarding a funding contribution for the 3G pitch.

"The society has approached the council regarding a one-off financial contribution of up to circa $450k towards the overall project costs."

But the councillors have warned that the financial offer is dependent on the success of ongoing talks between Forever Bury and Bury AFC, the phoenix club formed in the wake of Bury FC's demise.

Their report adds: "Any proposition which includes the operation of two non-league clubs in the town would have a negative impact on the financial plans to recommission Gigg Lane.

"The viability of the business plan is critically dependent upon matchday revenues, which if the supporter base is split

between two non-league clubs represents a major risk to the sustainability of the business plan."

Last Friday a Bury AFC spokesman said: "We are delighted to hear that contracts have been exchanged for the sale and purchase of Gigg Lane and recognise the hard work which has been invested to get this far by those involved.

"The next stage of the process is legal completion of the transfer at which point the balance of the purchase price will become payable.

"We are in discussions with both parties, and the council, to move through the fine detail on how this could work going forward.

"Once we are able to bring some detail to our members for a vote we will, but in the meantime there is no reason for concern about the club, players or staff as they are all at the heart of any future plans.

"There is no intention to discontinue this club or its progress to date, and (we) remain committed to ensuring there is one club representing the town next season."