AFC Telford chairman Andy Pryce urges government to reclassify National League North

AFC Telford United chairman Andy Pryce has urged the government to reclassify National League North as ‘recreational’ sport and allow supporters to return.

Andy Pryce
Andy Pryce

The Bucks and other clubs in the division were dealt a huge blow after plans to reopen turnstiles from next month were scrapped, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning matches may have to be played behind closed doors for another six months.

National League bosses are expected to decide on Thursday whether to delay the start of a season, which was scheduled for October 3 in order to coincide with the planned return of supporters.

Pryce believes the Bucks and others are being harmed by the government’s decision to class the second tier of non-league as ‘elite’ level sport, meaning they must follow the same guidelines as Premier League clubs like Wolves, Villa and West Brom, despite the vast gulf in revenue. Clubs a division below Telford will still be able to welcome up to 600 supporters through the turnstiles as they are considered to play at a recreational level.

Telford MP Lucy Allan has written to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, on the club’s behalf, to request National League North is reclassified.

Pryce said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous. You have clubs in the division below with a capacity of 2,000 who are allowed 600 supporters in. Yet we have a capacity of 6,000 and are allowed none.

“The decision to class National League North as elite sport is really hurting us and needs to change. All we are asking for is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”

Telford have not played a competitive match since early March when last season was halted by the pandemic.

The National League North board will meet on Thursday to discuss the implications of yesterday’s announcement, with Pryce admitting he has begun to fear for the future of the sport.

“I am worried about a lot of clubs and worried for football in general,” he said. “We totally understand health has to be the priority and everything has to be safe.

“But we have spent a lot of money putting the procedures in place to make the ground as safe as it can possibly be, ready for the return of fans.

“To see that now taken away, less than a fortnight before the season was due to start, is hugely disappointing.

“The bottom line is we need to start playing football again and we need to do it in front of fans.”

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