The joy returns to many tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) as fans are finally permitted to watch non-league football once again although I am well aware some will have watched their first game since March by the time I’ve finished writing this on Friday evening! The success of the #LetFansIn campaign in just over a week superbly championed by the non-league family finally saw the DCMS cave in and allow fans to be admitted to games which begged the question as to whether between themselves and the FA they had starved clubs at Steps 3-7 of almost four weeks of income.
#FansAreBack is the new slogan although National League clubs are still awaiting to see if they are allowed supporters to view their games which I will come onto later. The excitement over Twitter and Facebook groups, across club pages was clear to see earlier this week and whilst there will be some nervousness about how well this will work it’s clear to see people are ready to watch their team in action once again and clubs are ready to welcome them back.
I appeared on the Worthing FC Rebel Yell Podcast last Sunday evening (available on Spotify to re-listen to) joined by Lee Roberts who covers Rocks Radio for Bognor Regis Town FC and Herne Bay manager Ben Smith, hosted by Peter Vale and James Easton. As Ben pointed out prior to the decision during the week they were confident at the Kent club they could social distance 127 supporters in one stand alone, 360 fans could be accommodated around the perimeter of the pitch, which makes you wonder why we’ve had to wait so long for this decision to be reached.
When the news finally came through I bet one or two club treasurers up and down the country were quietly pleased that although this is the first small step on the way back, income was about to begin trickling in to club coffers once again. As we’ve seen though the FA have stumbled a bit giving these reduced capacities a ‘one fits all’ for each step of football instead of a percentage of each club’s full capacity, bit similar to them saying a Step 5 club is the same as a Step 1 National League club, which of course we all know one is so far removed from each other, beautiful of the games governing body to not recognise the difference.
As I mentioned earlier not all fans are yet back in. The campaign continues for Steps 1 and 2 of non-league football who are considered ‘elite sporting teams’, bizarre really when most of Step 2 are part-time players but considered as elite as a player in both the Football League and Premier League. This evening a groups of cross party MP’s have written to the Secretary of State for Sport reminding them that while the players might be considered elite as they derive income from the game, the clubs do not enjoy the same elite trappings their illustrious neighbours enjoy.
So the drum keeps banging whilst we wait for the National League to be allowed to be treated the same as other non-league clubs, especially as two NL clubs in Dorking Wanderers and Concord Rangers threw their weight behind getting fans back into games, it’s only right they get the same crack of the whip.