Since the return of non-league football from August 1st, clubs have been sticking to a strict ruling of playing their pre-season friendlies behind closed doors. With the pandemic not completely over, the FA made the decisions for clubs between Steps 1 to 7 to play without supporters.
The decision on when fans will be able to return is still unknown with no date set for a review. As a result, clubs have been left in the dark and many have even folded or withdraw from their respective leagues due to financial trouble. One of those clubs were Droylsden FC who resigned from the Northern Premier League saying they had no alternative after the pandemic had caused them financial trouble.
On a typical matchday, clubs earn their money through different revenues. Whether it be from gate money, food and drink or buying club merchandise, money is what keeps these clubs afloat, however, clubs have not been able to gain this through pre-season.
At the weekend, a game between Heyford Athletic and Marston Saints was even abandoned at half-time after the referee felt that a group as the side of the pitch were not socially-distanced enough.
The FA have already stated that non-league would not start without supporters but with no clear guidance, it is very frustrating for those waiting for the return of supporters. There is even grown unrest with the Government and FA as people continued to flock to beaches, bars and restaurants but socially-distanced football has not been permitted. In additional to that, clubs have been able to open clubhouses for live football on the TV as well as those supporters being able to watch a live game in the ground from the comfort of the clubhouse.
On Monday, the unrest began to boil over on Twitter with #LetFansIn trending for large parts of the day. The protest, aimed at the Government and FA, is supporters saying they have had enough of waiting for the all-clear whilst other things have been given that notice. Clubs such as Dorking Wanderers and Concord Rangers were some of the first to share as they seeked answers as well as fans, volunteers and non-league bloggers.
The solution is simple. A reduced amount of crowds is better than nothing and this is all clubs are asking for. A small amount of income from pre-season could be all a club needs to stay afloat until the season is given the go ahead with clubs being able to follow the Government guidelines in relation to social-distancing, washing hands and minimal contact between club volunteers and fans.
With many clubs averaging under 100 supporters per game and some even lower, it is hard to see the issue the Government face with a decision. Non-league football doesn’t boost the economy but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important or should be ignored by Boris Johnson and the Government. We are yet to see a change but will be hoping for one before it’s too late for many clubs.