The hopes of seeing spectators at pre-season friendlies at Non League Football grounds in August have suffered a blow.
The prime minister Boris Johnson has “paused” several aspects of the planned lockdown easing, including the pilot of large gatherings at sporting events.
Fans will not be able to watch County Cricket matches and the World Snooker Championships until at least 15th August. Had the pilot schemes enjoyed success, that could have paved the way for spectators to return to Non League Football.
Mr Johnson’s announcement came 12 hours after the health secretary Matt Hancock dramatically placed lockdown measures on Greater Manchester, plus Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale.
Despite this, clubs can still press ahead with playing friendlies behind closed doors.
Yorkshire Amateur’s battle with Nostell Miners Welfare at 1pm at Bracken Edge will be one of the first Non League matches to be held in the United Kingdom since March. Obviously that will be played without spectators.
Non League followers could still potentially see games in August at Step 7 clubs as they are deemed as grassroots and in large cases they can welcome spectators.
However, that is where it does become slightly confusing as for instance, Retford United, the former NCEL Premier Division champions who are now a Step 7 club, cannot play home friendlies in front of spectators because their ground is classed as a stadia.
But, when they go to Beverley Town, the Humber Premier League side, next week, spectators are allowed to watch.
The next few weeks will be interesting as a decision on whether crowds can enter Non League grounds for matches is crucial to the season starting in September.
At the same time, Non League clubs are having to work extremely hard to make their grounds safe.
There may have to be a u-turn on spectators due to the pilot scheme delay, despite the FA having already openly said it is paramount that spectators are allowed back before the Steps 1-6 return to competitive action. The financial aspect is one reason.