Plans to merge two fan groups in a bid to bring professional football back to Gigg Lane have narrowly failed, the results of a crunch vote have found.

Members of Bury FC Supporters’ Society (BFCSS) and Bury AFC’s Shakers Community Society were asked by the Football Supporters’ Association to vote in favour of a merger of the two clubs in the hope of bringing elite men’s football back to the town.

The two societies announced the plans in July after the council pledged to provide £450,000 in funding to a unified Bury FC.

The historic club, established in 1885, was expelled from the English Football League in 2019 following long running financial difficulties.

If the members of the two supporters' groups voted in favour of teaming up the new society would be called The Football Supporters’ Society of Bury and will be based at Gigg Lane.

But after the votes were counted ahead of a "special general meeting" (SGM) tonight, it was revealed that 62.9 per cent of the 771 BFCSS members who took part voted in favour of the merge deal, 3.7 per cent short of the two thirds majority (66.6 per cent) needed for it to be successful. 

A huge 94 per cent majority of Shakers Community Society members, equating to 1,003 people, were in favour of the deal.

Tonight, Friday, a BFCSS spokesperson said on its website: "Votes in favour are 485 (62.9 per cent) and votes against the resolution are 286 (37.1 per cent)

"During the SGM and the voting process the independent company Mi Voice have ensured compliance, counted, ratified all eligible votes and verified the result.

"The outcome of the vote is that the required threshold of 66.6 per cent has not been achieved, the resolution has therefore failed to pass.

"BFCSS now have a clear direction to move forward.

"This has been a divisive period in the history of Bury Football Club.

"Differences now need to be put aside, everyone should work together, bringing Bury FC back to where it deserves to be.

"No individual or group of individuals are bigger than Bury Football Club, something we should all keep in mind.

"What we are building today is for those who will look back, be proud of the work we as volunteers have put into establishing this club as a shining example of a sustainable fan owned football club.

"We would ask every person to now look to themselves as to how best you can support Bury Football Club.

"The future of your club is in your hands, join us, become members and be a part of the future.

"Do not walk away, come back to be part of the future of Bury FC, we are the Shakers."

Bury AFC also announced the vote on its website.

A club spokesman said: "Despite a 94 per cent majority vote in favour from Shakers Society members, the results from the Bury FC Supporters’ Society vote mean that the amalgamation will not proceed.

"While a majority of 63 per cent Bury FC Supporters’ Society members voted in favour, the 286 Bury FC Supporters’ Society members who voted against it meant that they fell short of the two thirds majority required for it to go through.

"We know that many supporters will be extremely disappointed that we are unable to move to Gigg Lane in the summer.

"However, we do believe this is something we will return to in future.

"While the two thirds majority was not reached to allow the amalgamation to take place, there is a clear majority of Bury FC Supporters’ Society members who support working with Bury AFC and do not see the benefits of creating another new club.

"The message from our own members could not be clearer.

"The 1,003 Shakers Society members who voted in favour are almost as many in number as the entire Bury FC Supporters’ Society membership, who are now faced with the consequences of not proceeding with an amalgamation of the two societies, as outlined here.

"We have now called an AGM which will take place on 7pm on Thursday, December 29, 2022 where we will undertake the usual formalities, elect or approve up to three board members, and seek approval from members to adopt many of the policies which were developed throughout the merger process.

"For now, we are able to focus on football again.

"We can be grateful for what we do have, a superb playing surface at a ground which currently suits our purpose, a financially strong, well-run club, built by its members and volunteers, a club which is attracting new supporters whilst developing an incredibly loyal fan base, and a team who we all connect with and of which we are extremely proud. We have each other.

"So don’t be disheartened. We aren’t the tutters, the moaners or the whingers.

"We are the people who put their energy into building something better when they lost their club. We get things done. We stick together. 

"We are Bury AFC, and we have games to run, to watch, and to play. Starting this weekend.

"This is all part of our story."

The council said a "revised business case for Gigg Lane is needed" following the decision.

A joint statement from council leader, Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, and Cllr Charlotte Morris, cabinet member for culture and the economy, said: “We are disappointed by the result of the vote, which was a golden opportunity to unite Bury’s football fans and work together to bring elite football back to Bury at its historic Gigg Lane home.

“The council’s financial support of up to £450,000 was always conditional upon a merger, and a viable business case in support of Gigg Lane.

"We take our responsibility to the appropriate use of public money very seriously and we have always made clear our belief that bringing together the football fanbase in Bury, united behind one team, is the most sensible and sustainable way forward to guarantee the future of the stadium as a footballing venue and a community asset.

"Unfortunately, in the absence of a merger, a revised business case for Gigg Lane is needed and therefore the council will now not be making that funding available.

“However, this does not need to be the end of the journey. The vote shows that the overwhelming number of Shakers Community Society members (94 per cent) were in favour of the merger, and a clear majority (63 per cent) – albeit short of the required 66 per cent - of Bury Football Club Supporters’ Society members were too.

“This demonstrates that there is still a desire by the vast majority of fans to see how a new future for football in Bury can be achieved.

"We are happy to have further discussions with all concerned parties on the way forward, and we will try to bring all parties together as soon as possible.”