HERALD EXPRESS - FANS' ZONE 29/08/2020
FAN POWER - AT LAST SPECTATORS BACK IN STADIUMS IN LOWER LEAGUES. NOW IT’S THE TURN FOR THE NATIONAL LEAGUES
With United manager Gary Johnson voicing his view that the National League should be following, and be part of, the EFL, the National League board have a number of important decisions to make in order to be in line.
One was a topic this column raised two weeks ago being the need to introduce a salary cap with a suggested figure of £900,000. To give as an example of National League clubs’ spending, new Barnet manager, Peter Beadle (ex- Newport County & Hereford boss) has a playing budget in excess of £800,000.
The arrival of Connor Lemonheigh-Evans took the Gulls’ squad to 20 and with the prospect of a few loan players joining as and when, Johnson, along with other National League sides will have noted that the EFL for Leagues 1 & 2 have agreed to limit squads to 22 registered players. This figure for League 2 will be reduced to 20 from season 2021-22. The limits do not apply to cup competitions or include Under-21s unless they were signed on loan.
In a recent Fans’ Zone I made mention of the need for the football authorities to come up with a plan of how to resolve a season being ended prematurely at some point in the future. And the EFL board has been debating this along the lines that for a campaign not to be declared null and void, between two-thirds and three-quarters of matches would need to be played - as was the case for last season. Also recommended will be the retention of the points-per-game model as was used to settle the final standings for season 2019-20.
The latest EFL initiative is a ground breaking deal with Sky Sports to live stream every Championship, League 1 & 2 match free for season ticket holders; could BT Sport follow to do likewise for the National League?
The #LetFansIn campaign trending on social media last week gathered pace with over 10,000 signing the petition leading to 30 MPs writing to the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport department calling for non-league clubs to allow spectators back. And it worked! Over the weekend clubs at Steps 3-6 saw fans through the turnstiles for the first time since early March bringing in much needed revenue. There are inevitably restrictions with initially only 15% of an FA determined minimum capacity allowed in August, for example at Step 3 this being 300 but then in September rising to 30%, meaning 600.
Devon football starved fans have shown how much they want to see a game by snapping up, in just over an hour on Saturday, the 300 tickets put on sale for last night’s pre-season friendly at Ladysmead for Tiverton Town against Exeter City.
So the pressure is building for the green light to be given to the three National League divisions, which are designated as ‘elite sport’ and so under a different set of rules, to allow the return of crowds.
To this end the National League board and the FA met, via Zoom, with all National League clubs last week to see how fans can be admitted into stadiums. Then on Friday a cross-party of MPs wrote another letter to the Sports Minister to add weight to the plea for National League clubs to open their gates. In addition TUST supports the FSAs ‘Sustain The Game’ campaign.
So expect some positive news this week - could a limited number (Gulls’ season ticket holders) be admitted into United’s pre-season friendlies starting next month?
With Gary Johnson and his assistant Aaron Downes over-excited as pre-season training has started this week, it is just as likely that the Yellow Army is too. This feeling was reinforced with the arrival of my season ticket on Saturday. Interestingly on my card confirming my stand, row and seat number is now the turnstiles to be used for entrance - a sign of the new protocols.
To finish with a smile, in 2013 playing against Notts County, goal scorers for the opposition that day were Peter Hartley and James Poole playing for …. yes, that’s right, Hartlepool!
As always you can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To the Yellow Army - start counting down those days to football.
Nick Brodrick, TUST board member and Supporter Liaison Officer, writes a weekly column for the Herald Express under the heading "Fans' Zone". Keep an eye out for next weeks edition in the paper on Wednesday.
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