THERE was a surprise announcement from the FA yesterday afternoon, but one that caused non-league clubs in the Bradford District and beyond to rejoice.

It was confirmed that a deal had been struck to allow a limited number of home spectators into games below National League North and South level, with clubs able to fill up to 15 per cent of their league's minimum ground grading capacity.

In simple terms, that means those who are in tier 3 and play at Steps 5 and 6 (Thackley, Liversedge, Eccleshill United, Albion Sports, Silsden, Campion and Steeton) can have 150 home fans at their games.

These changes come into effect immediately, and the Northern Counties East League, which all of the above teams except Steeton play in, reacted immediately.

At a board meeting last night, they confirmed the league season would restart next Saturday.

Bradford and West Yorkshire is widely expected to remain in tier 3 following a government review next Wednesday, so anticipating that would mean the continued absence of fans, the NCEL had said they were not looking to start until January at the earliest.

But with vital gate money now guaranteed from next weekend, there will be a welcome early start.

Unfortunately, in the Premier Division, Albion, Thackley and Silsden are all away, Eccleshill are without a game, and Liversedge are on the road in FA Vase.

But down in Division One, Campion will be at home, as they host Selby Town.

The North West Counties League had already expressed a desire to restart on December 19, in the hope that the teams in their leagues in tier 3, like Steeton, would have moved down to tier 2 next Wednesday.

They no longer have to wait for that decision given this latest announcement, so though they have not made an official statement yet, it is hard to envisage why they wouldn't restart next Saturday.

The Northern Premier League, which Brighouse play in, had taken a similar line to the NCEL, regarding a January restart, so it remains to be seen whether they get playing again from next Saturday or not.

Women's football above grassroots level is also celebrating, with Bradford City's women confirming they will be allowing 300 fans into their remaining December home games and beyond.

In tier 3 areas, clubhouses will have to remain closed, spectators must remain in their household or bubble in groups of six, and fans are not permitted to travel between tiers to attend fixtures.

Eccleshill's home friendly with Brighouse tomorrow and Steeton's game at Marley against Prestwich Heys will be the first in the district able to take place in front of a crowd above grassroots level for over a month.