BURY AFC has outlined its return-to-football pathway and also reiterated its long-term commitment to the club’s women’s team.

Club officials met last week to discuss when competitive football, in front of fans, can return to the Neuven Stadium – with May 17 (step 3 of the easing of lockdown rules) the earliest likely date with up to 1,000 fans allowed to attend home games.

However, AFC are working closely with its landlords, Radcliffe FC as pitch maintenance usually takes place during the month of May.

The club will also take in to account player welfare – starting fixtures too early, only to stop them prior to pre-season – and the potential of an overly long and uncompetitive pre-season, which "provides no benefit to the establishment of fitness, form, or squad cohesion for next season".

With that in mind, June 21 (step 4) is a more realistic date for when AFC could return to action.

A club statement said: “While keen to start playing as soon as possible, we are mindful of the uncertainty that still persists about the sanction of competitive football in front of crowds, with additional considerations around the timings for commencement of squad training sessions.

“We will monitor the updated guidance from the FA when available to strike the right balance.”

It added: “We are in dialogue with our counterparts at Radcliffe about the co-ordination of any pitch maintenance, to suit games both during pre-season and in time for the proposed start of the new 2021/22 season.

“From 21st June (Step 4), we expect that all remaining social distancing restrictions should be lifted and under these circumstances crowd restrictions would be removed.

“We hope that this will result in an easier way forward for organising meaningful matches including the organisation of a strong programme of pre-season friendlies, for which discussions have commenced with a range of other clubs.”

The club is also in talks with the Manchester FA about of being included in an FA-run cup tournament.

Meanwhile, the club this week revealed it’s women’s team will receive the same support as it’s men’s team.

A club statement said: “We want to apply the same principles of sustainable and prudent financial management to our women’s team as we do to the men.

“We want to ensure that the women’s team is sustainable in the long term and in it’s own right, as that is healthy for the whole club, not just the women’s team.”

It added: “We want to provide the same level of support to all of our players, both women and men. This means that we will provide players for Bury AFC Women with kit and training wear, training facilities and pay them a small fee per game played to cover basic travel and matchday expenses.

“Men and women will always have the potential to earn higher matchday appearance fees, based on their experience and ability, however, we wanted to set a starting level which put both men and women on equal terms.”

To help boost the profile of the women’s game and attract more fans, the club also confirmed that season tickets for the men’s team will automatically include all women’s games next season. It also has plans to stream women’s games for free when possible.