National League season set to be delayed if fans are not allowed to attend

National League season set to be delayed if fans are not allowed to attend
Meadow Lane, home of Notts County
Notts County’s friendly against York on 26 September has been selected as one of the test events for National League clubs

The new National League season will not start on 3 October if fans are not able to attend, BBC Sport understands.

With cases of Covid-19 rising, a planned programme of test events prior to a phased and partial return of supporters at sports venues from 1 October is set to be scrapped.

National League clubs have been told that if supporters are not allowed to attend, their season will not begin.

The league had previously received approval to hold test events with fans.

Last week up to 1,000 people were to be allowed to watch friendly matches at Dagenham & Redbridge, Yeovil Town, Dartford and Notts County on 22 and 26 September.

A decision on fans returning has yet to be confirmed, but BBC Sport understands that officials at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are expecting to have to tell governing bodies that spectators will not be permitted.

Sports are to be asked by officials for their assessments of the financial impact of playing behind closed doors for several more months, while the government is said to be keen to work with sports on a possible support package that would enable them to survive.

National League chairman Brian Barwick has previously said he feared clubs would “suffer severe economic hardship” if spectators were not allowed to return to stadiums in the near future, with teams at that level more reliant on matchday income.

The 2019-20 National League regular season was brought to an early conclusion because of the coronavirus pandemic, although play-off games in its three divisions were played behind closed doors in July and August.

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