A NON-LEAGUE manager has welcomed the decision to allow supporters back into grounds, but warned there is a lot of work ahead.

Brent Peters, who has been in charge of Bacup Borough for more than two decades, says it would be hard for clubs like his to carry on without fans.

But even though Bacup’s average North West Counties League attendance would fall within the initial crowd limit of 150, rising to 300 in September, he said it was not as simple as re-opening the turnstiles, with numerous measures to put in place around the ground, and also for his team on and off the pitch.

“It’s good news about fans, that’s what we want,” he said. “But there’s a lot of hard work that has to go with it to make sure we uphold the regulations we’re supposed to in order to carry on playing. It’s not just as though fans can come in and it’s like it was.

“We’ve already put risk assessments on the club website about what happens at the ground, and it’s got to be specific to your ground, not just guidance that’s copied and pasted.

“At Bacup to eliminate congestion and reduce the amount of cash being handled we will operate two entrances – one for cash payers and executive club pass holders, and a separate one if you’re paying contactless.

“There’s a one-way system in the bar area and clubhouse.

“Supporters can use seating in the stand but unless you’re from the same household there should be two empty seats between you and the next person for social distancing.

“We are putting hand sanitisers all the way around the ground, we’ve got to put markers down, appoint a Covid officer, which can’t be me because I’m with the team – it’s got to be someone free to walk round.

“We’ve got to introduce track and trace, so fans will take a card and fill in their details at their leisure then drop into a mini postbox that we’ll place inside the ground.”

The North West Counties League programme is not due to start until October 3, but Bacup face a race against time to get all Covid safety measures in place for their friendly at home to Barnoldswick on Saturday, after which their permitted attendance can rise to 300.

The match-day experience will also be different for players, with the starting XI and substitutes to be separated once the team is announced to allow for social distancing in the dressing room, while substitutes will be unable to sit together on the bench and instead have to spread out either in the stand or on the touchline.

Peters added: “What people don’t realise is that at our level it costs us money to put football matches on.

“There are the health and safety aspects, which are even more so now with Covid; there’s pitch maintenance costs, catering costs, expenses for players and officials.

“Whilst there was no football and grounds were shut it wasn’t costing, in my opinion, anything like the money it will start costing once the season kicks off because that’s when the big costs come.

“We’ll be using more gas and electricity, more water.”

But equally, while there have been few outgoings during lockdown, there hasn’t been cash coming in so Peters knows the return of fans is an important breakthrough.

“By the time we kick off it will be six or seven months since our last game which has affected our commercial arm and business development,” he said.

“We realise our business partners have suffered as well so we are mindful of that situation.

“To get this breakthrough has helped because at least now we can get fans back in so that will generate interest and income for clubs.

“Those that have bars attached to them will be able to turn their taps back on again.

“Allowing fans back in has meant all the leagues can kick off again as planned and that can only be good for the game.

“But the fans who come in have a responsibility to make sure they honour the guidelines otherwise the clubs in question could be in trouble and nobody wants that.”

Peters has other reservations too.

“As fantastic as it is I can’t help but think it’s not going to be a season like we’re used to. I think it’s going to be stop-start and instead of having games called off for the weather they will be called off because of Covid,” he continued.

“We will have temperature checks for all of our players and anyone who records a temperature will be sent home.”

There already question marks over the local lockdown areas too and how clubs there will be affected, of which Bacup - in Rossendale - is one. But Peters says Boro will do everything in their power to keep playing, and keep safe.

“Football without fans is not football. Clubs like ours can’t afford to put games on without fans coming through the gate so it’s needed,” he said. “But it’s not going to be plain sailing.”