AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Corby Town set to have to wait for their restart

Clubs at Steps 3 and 4 are expected to vote in favour of pausing the season for a bit longer

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 12:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 12:47 pm
Corby Town fans are set to have to wait a bit longer before their team can step out at Steel Park again

AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Corby Town are set to have to wait a bit longer before they can resume their Pitching In Southern League campaigns.

Step 3 and 4 clubs from the Southern League, Northern Premier League and Isthmian League met with officials on a Zoom call on Tuesday evening to discuss the way forward.

With the national lockdown now being replaced by a tiered system, clubs based under Tier 3 guidelines areas are currently unable to host supporters at home matches while those in Tier 2, which includes Diamonds and the Steelmen, are unable to have full use of their clubhouses.

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The original plan was for the Southern League to fully resume its season on Saturday, December 12.

However, there is now an expectation that clubs will vote in favour of pausing the restart for a bit longer to ensure a level playing field for all.

The voting is due to be completed this evening with the outcome being announced tomorrow (Thursday).

But football-starved fans are set to be able to watch Diamonds next week with the Buildbase FA Trophy first-round ties due to be played on Tuesday night as planned.

Andy Peaks’ side are due to take on Premier Central rivals Peterborough Sports with capacity at Hayden Road likely to be capped at 450.

Diamonds vice-chairman Jon Ward: “It was pretty unanimous that those who are in Tier 3 and can’t have fans at their games are at a massive disadvantage.

“If we were in that situation, we would expect people to feel the same so think it’s unfair that we start the league again in that situation.

“The next review is on December 16 and we will see where the land lies. The Southern League have said it’s an additional temporary pause and it will be reviewed frequently.

“From our perspective, we have put in a lot of volunteer hours to make ourselves Covid friendly at the ground and have reduced our capacity to deal with that.

“We are all being reactive to the situation and we, as a club, will be ready to play as and when we are allowed to.

“But it would be unfair for us to suggest that the league starts when there are clubs in Tier 3.

“However, from what we understand, the FA Trophy game with Peterborough Sports is due to go ahead on Tuesday next week and whichever team is successful will play again the following Tuesday and if they are successful again the third round is due to be on December 19.”

The Steelmen sit on top of the Division One Central ahead of any resumption and chairman Stevie Noble admitted it was pleasing to hear plenty of talk of ensuring the season is completed in full after the last campaign was declared null and void when the pandemic first struck.

The Steelmen chairman said: “I don’t think anybody at our level would agree to go back without supporters. That’s crucial to any team at our level.

“So while there are teams in Tier 3, how could you put a full fixture list out on a Saturday?

“It would be an advantage for the teams who could still play so I think there was a consensus across the board that we need to get a bit more clarity on the tiers and what you can and can’t do and while teams are in Tier 3 and supporters can’t get in, it’s not feasible.

“But it was a very positive meeting. The consensus was that we won’t be starting back just yet. Everyone wants to start back but only when it’s safe to do so.

“The government are looking at these things on a fortnightly basis and the first is on December 16. It would be lovely for the club if we could get back for Boxing Day, especially as we are at home. It would be massive.

“But, even if that doesn’t pan out and we don’t get any football over the Christmas period, if people can be sensible and follow the guidelines then places will come out of Tier 3 and we will be able to get football back.

“For me, that’s the answer. Once it’s safe for all of us to go back and we’re all on a level playing field then we will be back.

“There are still enough Saturdays and midweeks left to ensure we get the season in and the positive thing from the meeting was that there is the intention to get the season done and get to the end where there is promotion and relegation.

“The integrity of the leagues with promotion and relegation and everyone being on a level playing field were at the forefront of the meeting, which was good to hear.”