AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley says government and FA should bring back socially distanced crowds at non-league levels first
AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley has called on the government and FA to look to non-league levels first for re-introducing crowds at football matches.
The former Needham Market and Leiston boss believes the setting provided by clubs playing at Step 3 (Southern League and Isthmian League Premier) of the non-league pyramid and below would provide the ideal trial for bringing back paying customers to football grounds.
The average attendances at clubs at this level tend to typically be below the 400 mark, meaning there could be ample room to spread people out to still still enable social distancing measures to be adhered.
While the professional game is set to return in the form of the Premier League and Championship from the Covid-19 enforced lockdown later this month, behind closed doors matches at non-league level would not be feasible financially.
Morsley, who is in his third spell as manager at AFC Sudbury after making himself voluntarily redundant to help the club as they entered the lockdown before being re-appointed five weeks later, said in an update on the club's website: "I am hopeful that our government are mindful that non-league football is a massive part of many thousands of people's lives, not just as a hobby for supporters but also the 100s of clubs that need direction to find ways that they can survive.
"I know of clubs whose existence is really under threat! Although clearly playing at the top level needs to be done behind closed doors I firmly believe that the return of paying supporters should be done in reverse order; starting from the bottom upwards.
"Social distancing on a non-league terrace, for the vast majority of clubs at Step 3 and below, is not a difficult concept and I think that the non-League game is the perfect place to start this.
"With strong signs that pubs and bars will re-open in July, engagement with non-league football around the safe way to watch a game, have a beer and burger, can be a road map for the clubs from higher levels who are not quite as desperate to see the tills clicking but nevertheless want to see spectators return in a safe way as soon as possible."
He added: "My biggest hope is that the grassroots game is not treated as poor relations and an afterthought as has been the case for many years. Instead the FA should encourage the resurgence of non-league football with safe procedures and the confidence to strive towards what is likely to be a new normal."
Morsley also announced his squad will start their pre-season fitness and preparation programme on Monday, July 6, even though the Isthmian League is yet to confirm a start date for the 2020/21 season, which looks likely to be delayed while the country is still required to socially distance.
"Starting with German football we are seeing the resumption of elite football so I believe we need to make sure we are ready for when our season starts," the Yelllows boss explained.
"I believe that we will see further relaxations regarding sports this month, but initially we will undertake our due diligence to ensure that all players and staff are protected accordingly."
More by this authorRussell Claydon
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