THE Toolstation Northern Counties East League have decided to delay the start of the 2020/21 league season by an initial period of two weeks, until September 19.

But there is some light at the end of the tunnel, as it was announced yesterday evening by the government that some fans at Steps Three to Seven (the NCEL is Steps Five and Six) will now be allowed to attend games.

That does not include Bradford (Park Avenue) or Guiseley, who play at Step Two in the National League North.

Further guidance will be needed to determine exactly how many fans can come along to games, but at this early stage, fans will need to abide by social distancing rules and spectator groups must be restricted to 'discrete six-person gathering limits'.

It could mean that pockets of fans could attend some of the remaining pre-season games for clubs at that level.

For now though, the NCEL have not changed their mind on pushing that start date back, with no suggestion that these non-league grounds will be able to return to full capacity just yet.

In a statement made just before the government announcement, the league said: "It had been hoped that the new campaign could start on Saturday, September 5.

"But the decision to postpone it for at least a fortnight follows Monday night's conference call with the FA and a club survey that showed that 90 per cent of our teams do not wish to play league matches behind closed doors.

"The FA are working with the government and its Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on a specific plan to allow spectators back into Non League System grounds.

"It is the view of the NCEL Board, along with many other leagues across the country, that playing football behind closed doors in not financially viable and we should not start our league season until spectators are allowed back into our stadiums.

"We asked clubs to complete a survey to gather their views and, with the overwhelming majority agreeing with our standpoint, the league has pushed back the season start date to Saturday 19th September, 2020 at the earliest."