LOCAL senior non-league clubs Leek Town, Rocester FC and Uttoxeter Town are among those that can welcome back a limited number of fans to matches from this weekend.
The FA today (August 19) announced a phased return of spectators at clubs playing in steps three to six of the men’s National League System (NLS) and teams in tiers three to four of the women’s football pyramid.
Spectators will be allowed through the turnstiles for games played between August 22 and 30, providing their number does not exceed 15 per cent of the minimum ground grading capacity at these levels.
From August 31, clubs will be permitted to allow spectators to attend fixtures provided their number does not exceed 30 per cent of the minimum ground grading capacity.
If a club does have any fixtures before August 30, they must play at least one pre-season or competitive match at the 15 per cent threshold, before moving on to the 30 per cent limit.
Fans have been unable to attend matches played in the top 10 tiers of men’s football since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March.
The phased return of spectators at these levels was confirmed by the governing body following discussions with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.
It will remain under constant review in line with Government guidelines and, if necessary, amended accordingly.
Rocester FC manager Paul Wright commented: "It's been long overdue as I couldn't work out how 50/100 people spread around a pitch could be a problem.
"Cricket has been back since July 4 and I have seen many matches played in front of over 100 people easily.
"That said we are pleased to welcome spectators back as they are the life and soul of non-league football.
"We have had four games behind closed doors and down at our ground we have the Covid-19 plan working a treat.
" We are very disappointed we can't welcome fans back for Friday's game against Leek Town, as I am sure we would have had a good turn out, which would have given us some much needed income."
He added: "All of our volunteers have been tremendous, working hard to ensure we can host teams behind closed doors".