The FA has revealed the government has altered the rules for clubs in Covid tier three areas to say they CAN now allow fans in.
Numbers will be limited but only around the same level they were kept to before the November lockdown.
Given that the lack of any fans being allowed at the Isthmian League's numerous Kent clubs was a major reason for the league season's restart being put on hold, this has to be a step in the right direction.
Some clubs may still feel a restart is difficult because there are restrictions on clubhouses and bars being opened, a major source of revenue for some, but there will now be growing pressure on league bosses to at least bring forward their review of the restart hopes, which had not been due until the end of next week.
The Isthmian League issued this statement after the FA revealed the relaxation of government rules...
The league said: "We've just received a statement from the FA, who have gained government agreement to allow home spectators to watch- following guidelines and with a limited capacity- across the country. Details below:
"The FA has today received approval from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) for a limited return of home spectators to be permitted at clubs competing in the National League System (NLS), Women’s Football Pyramid (WFP)and Buildbase FA Vase if they are situated in Tier 3 areas.
"The FA has worked continuously alongside the DCMS, Sports Grounds Safety Authority and leagues to gain approval and clubs competing in Steps 3-6 of the NLS, Tiers 3-6 of the WFP and Buildbase FA Vase that are situated in Tier 3 areas are now permitted to accommodate home spectators up to 15% of their capacity in line with Stage 1 of The FA’s respective guidelines for the NLS or WFP.
"A limited return of home spectators up to 15% of capacity will also be permitted in the Buildbase FA Trophy if the fixture is between two ‘non-elite’ clubs (clubs at Steps 3-4 of the NLS) in a Tier 3 area. All fixtures in the Buildbase FA Trophy that involve an ‘elite club’ (clubs at Steps 1-2 of the NLS) in a Tier 3 area must remain behind closed doors in line with the UK Government’s return to ‘elite’ sport guidance.
"Prior to admitting spectators, clubs competing in Steps 3-6 of the NLS, Tiers 3-6 of the WFP, the Buildbase FA Trophy and Buildbase FA Vase which are situated in Tier 3 areas are strongly advised to liase with their respective Local Authority for agreement on capacity limits.
"It is extremely important that spectators remain in their household or social bubble in groups of six, do not mix with any other spectator groups, or travel between Tiers to attend fixtures, as enforceable by law. If breaches of spectator limits or social distancing are reported, clubs and leagues may face returning to fixtures being held behind closed doors.
"Under UK Government guidelines, bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants in Tier 3 areas must be closed, except to sell by takeaway or click-and-collect, and this remains the case for clubs competing in Steps 3-6 of the NLS, Tiers 3-6 of the WFP, the Buildbase FA Vase and Buildbase FA Trophy with clubhouses in Tier 3 areas.
"Clubs competing in Steps 3-6 of the NLS, Tiers 3-6 of the WFP, the Buildbase FA Vase and Buildbase FA Trophy that are situated in Tier 1 or 2 areas remain permitted to accommodate a phased and limited return of spectators if they continue to follow the UK Governments’ latest guidance on COVID-19 and The FA’s respective guidelines for the NLS or WFP.
"Regional NLS Feeder Leagues, Tier 7 of the WFP and outdoor grassroots football also remain permitted to accommodate socially-distanced spectators but must follow the UK Government’s ‘rule of six’ and guidance on restrictions in certain tiers."