Southport’s league start in doubt after government spectators backtrack

Southport FC may not be able to start their National League North season after a Cabinet Minister all but confirmed fans would not be able to enter stadia in October.

Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast this morning that the phased return of crowds has now been “paused” because of a spike in Covid-19 cases, having initially been planned for 1st October.

The National League, which has a provisional start date of 3rd October for its premier division, has previously said it will not and can not commence fixtures without fans in the stadia.

Any decision to delay the start of the season would require ratification from the League Board, which is due to discuss the current situation on Thursday.

Club officials told OTS they will await further clarification before making a statement. Boris Johnson will address the nation at 8pm and is expected to comment on any new regulations or restrictions for sports.

Unlike higher division clubs who can often receive the bulk of their income from broadcast deals, allowing them to play without spectators, Southport and other clubs in the lower leagues receive the vast majority of their income through ticket sales.

Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast: “We are looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme.

“But what we do want to do is make sure that as and when the circumstances allow, we get more people back because the virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors.

“It is in the nature of major sporting events that there is a lot of mingling and people look back at the start of the pandemic and some of the major sporting events that happened then and ask the question: Why were they allowed to go ahead?

“One of the things we have to do now – whatever the wisdom of the decisions made then – is to look at sporting events now with caution.

“But of course we also recognise that sport is a vital part of the life of this nation and we are looking at everything we can do to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be a challenging time.”

Prime Minister Johnson has suggested the government are considering ways to assist struggling sports clubs.

Johnson, addressing the House of Commons this afternoon, said: “I recognise how this affects sport clubs, and the Chancellor and Culture Secretary are working urgently on what we can do to support them.”

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