THE group behind a Bury AFC phoenix club insist returning home to Gigg Lane is part of their long-term plan.

An application has been submitted to the North West Counties League, the ninth and 10th tiers of the pyramid, for a Shakers club to play from the 2020-21 season.

It would initially involve a groundshare with another club, the details of which are bound by a confidentiality clause.

At a public meeting, entrepreneur Robert Benwell presented a plan to fans that would see him take on the mortgage of the ground from owner Steve Dale, the Barnsley-born 35-year-old saying he has an agreement in principal with lender Capital Bridging Finance.

Chris Murray, chair of the phoenix leadership group, also answered questions from supporters and maintains that not immediately targeting Gigg Lane is simply a case of being realistic, the mortgage agreed by previous owner Stewart Day having been valued at £3.8 million.

“Some think that because we’re looking at a groundshare we’re not interested in Gigg Lane whatsoever,” Murray said.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth.

“If we’re having to set up a phoenix club and we’re trying to get everything sorted, I want us to play at Gigg.

“But we’ve got to be realistic and realise we don’t have £3.5 million quid to chuck at it straight away.

“We didn’t want to, if there were bidders in place looking to buy the ground or the club, start a bidding war.

“Nobody wins in that instance, it will just drive the price up.

“Priority number one for us has always been getting the basics in place for having a football club.

“There’s a lot of work involved so to fundraise from the start could have seen us spread ourselves thinner. We just need to look at it sensibly.”

There are currently three ways forward for the club.

‘Plan A’ is a consortium, who have signed a non-disclosure agreement, looking to complete a solvent sale from Dale.

The second option is Benwell’s plan while Murray is under no illusions about the phoenix’s position.

“We’ll just carry on doing what we’re doing with regards to the phoenix and looking how we can fundraise, how we can try and get a few things ironed out with our FA application,” he said.

“We just have to carry on and ensure there’s football being played in the 20/21 season. 

“We are last resort in theory.”