North East non-league clubs handed a lifeline as government update spectator guidelines
The move means that clubs below National League North and South level will be able to allow supporters back into their grounds ahead of the resumption of competitive fixtures.
Pre-season friendlies have been taking place at non-league grounds around the region over the last month – but clubs have abided by FA and DCMS advice by holding them behind closed doors.
But that will all change over the coming weeks after Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston set out plans for supporters to return in response to a letter co-signed by over thirty MPs including former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch.
Supporters had already launched their own initiative to put pressure on the government after there was growing concern over the financial welfare of non-league clubs that had been deprived of one of their major sources of income.
The #LetFansIn campaign gathered support from around the country and two petitions supporting the cause had received over 6,000 signatures.
Ahead of the announcement, Ms Crouch had said: “Non-League football is at the heart of English football with clubs in every town across the country supported by a small but loyal fan base.
“To treat their return through the gates the same as League football, who have much larger crowds, is unfair.
“If we don’t let fans in soon then I fear for the future of our smaller clubs.”
Clubs will receive guidance on Wednesday laying out what will be required to allow supporters back into their grounds including putting forward "a named person or persons with responsibility for ensuring adherence with these guidelines and ensuring the facility is Covid-19 secure".
Clubs will publish a risk assessment of their grounds and will collect information from supporters to assist with the NHS Test and Trace scheme.
Supporters will also have to abide by social distancing guidelines and spectator groups are limited to “six-person gathering limits”.
Despite the good news for clubs in the Northern Premier League and Northern League, the wait will go on for clubs like Darlington, Gateshead, Hartlepool United as the top two tiers of the non-league game as classed as elite sport.