York City have grounds for concern over National League start date

The new National League season will be delayed to allow fans into grounds, but York City do not yet know where they will be playing their opening home game.
Steve Watson: manager of York City. Picture: Getty ImagesSteve Watson: manager of York City. Picture: Getty Images
Steve Watson: manager of York City. Picture: Getty Images

The National League, which runs the Conference Premier, North and South divisions, has announced its 2020-21 campaigns will not begin until October 3, with play-offs in June.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the only fixtures that have been completed since mid-March have been play-offs.

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The Premier League and Football League are due to return on September 12, but the Government’s phased return of sport is targeting October before matches can be played in front of supporters, although there are trials with small crowds in county cricket, snooker and horse racing.

Clubs have been warned stadium capacities will be “significantly reduced” but until more details are known, York cannot be sure if Saturday’s 2-0 Conference North play-off semi-final defeat to Altrincham was the last game at their home since 1932, or if not, when that will be.

A new 8,000-seater ground has been built at Monks Cross but cannot be granted a safety certificate without a test event attended by 3,000 fans.

“It is likely that ground capacities will be significantly reduced,” National League chief executive Mike Tattersall wrote to clubs.

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“The ‘socially distanced’ capacity for each stadium will vary according to the design, layout and configuration”.

Harrogate Town will discover on Sunday whether they will play in next season’s Football League. They face Notts County in the Conference play-off final at Wembley.

A first League campaign would require Town to rip out their artificial pitch, but they will keep it if they do not win promotion.

Halifax Town will definitely play in next season’s Conference having lost to Boreham Wood in the play-offs, whilst bottom-of-the-table Bradford (Park Avenue) were spared demotion from Conference North because the leagues below abandoned their campaigns without promotion or relegation. Guiseley and Farsley Celtic also play in the sixth tier.

With no reduction in league fixtures, the final round of games will be on May 29, 2021, followed by the play-offs. The October 3 matches will actually be FA Cup second qualifying round ties.

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