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Government gives green light for non-league clubs at step three and below to welcome back fans

The majority of non-league clubs in Kent look set to welcome back fans after intervention from the sports minister.

Nigel Huddleston has given the green light for supporters to attend games at Isthmian League level and below, in response to a letter co-written by Chatham & Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch.

Margate's Hartsdown Park should be welcoming back fans Picture: Martin Apps
Margate's Hartsdown Park should be welcoming back fans Picture: Martin Apps

Clubs still need final FA clearance but it’s a welcome boost for Kent teams facing the prospect of playing behind closed doors and missing out on crucial matchday revenue.

The changes do not yet cover National League and National South clubs as those levels are classed as elite sport, meaning the wait goes on for the likes of Dover, Ebbsfleet, Dartford, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Welling.

Crouch and fellow MP Cheryl Gillan wrote to Huddleston calling for the “urgent return” of fans or face the prospect of "losing clubs forever”.

Huddleston wrote back with good news.

He said: “The guidance under which elite sport was able to resume (Elite sport guidance stages 1-5) does not apply to individuals or teams who do not meet the definition of elite sportspeople contained within the guidance.

“Non-elite football is covered by the Return to recreational team sport framework, and the supplementary guidance provided by the FA within that overall government framework.

“We have today updated the section on spectators to provide more guidance to clubs on the steps they need to take to safely manage any crowds.

“I understand the FA have also updated their guidance to reflect this.

“Whilst it is up to the sports to determine what constitutes the boundary between elite and non-elite within their sports, I am delighted that the FA’s definition means that leagues below the National Leagues North and South can continue with spectators.”

Read more: The latest sports news in Kent

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