Norfolk football fans set to return to matches

PUBLISHED: 12:46 19 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:25 19 August 2020

Football fans are being allowed back in to many local grounds Picture: Robert Groom

Football fans are being allowed back in to many local grounds Picture: Robert Groom

Archant

The chairman of one of Norfolk’s biggest non-league clubs says the decision to allow fans back into grounds is “fantastic”.

Clubs below the National League set-up - Steps 3-7 – can open their doors to fans following a government update on recreational team sports.

Turnstiles throughout the country have been locked since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in mid-March.

Ashley Bunn, chairman of Isthmian League North Dereham Town, welcomed the move, which would see the Magpies able to let in 15pc of its capacity - which at the club’s Aldiss Park ground is between 2,500 and 3,000.

“It’s great for us because it means it takes us up to our average attendance of around 190,” said Bunn.

“It effectively means we can operate as normal and that is fantastic news. Fortunately we have got our house in order, but without fans we can’t operate. More importantly for us, the fans are our football club and you miss them. We want them back because we are all a family.”

The FA’s guidance will see clubs allowed an initial 15pc capacity for pre-season games, increasing, as long as each club is comfortable, to 30pc for the start of the competitive season. However, the conditions are set in time blocks, which mean that Dereham now have to schedule in an extra home pre-season friendly – their next scheduled game at Aldiss Park is currently an FA Cup preliminary round tie on September 12.

Stage One runs from August 22-30 and the FA says: “If a club at these levels does not play any fixtures during this period, it must have played at least one pre-season or competitive fixture in accordance with its respective level of spectators before moving on to Stage Two.”

The second stage covers the period after August 31.

“The phased and limited return of spectators at these levels will be kept under constant review in line with the UK Government’s guidelines and will be amended accordingly as required,” say the FA.

King’s Lynn Town are considered to be at a level of elite sport, which has to pass pilot tests – they have their first pre-season game at Stowmarket this weekend and are scheduled to return to The Walks on September 12, when Braintree Town are the visitors.

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