Bromley boss Neil Smith adds voice to growing calls to allow fans to return to games


Bromley manager Neil Smith has added his voice to the growing calls for football fans to be allowed into games.

The Ravens kicked their National League campaign off with an emphatic 4-1 win over Dover Athletic on Tuesday evening but supporters were forced to watch from home via the club’s online stream.

Government coronavirus guidelines mean clubs in the EFL and the top two tiers of non-league football can’t welcome supporters, despite a number of teams hosting test events to trial admitting fans into stadiums in a safe manner.

Smith fears that a handful of clubs could face serious financial difficulties unless regulations are loosened.

“You’ve only got to look around [Bromley’s ground Hayes Lane] and you can see the amount of space there is,” explained the former Gillingham and Fulham midfielder.

“When you drive past a restaurant, I’ve been restaurants, it’s very tight and enclosed. You’re sitting in there for two hours. You think, any sort of number for getting supporters in, even if they put it on a rota. It might be every other game you get in for. I don’t see why you can’t.

Michael Cheeks bags Bromley’s first goal of the season – but no fans were present to see the 4-1 win over Dover Athletic. Keith Gillard

“They keep saying you’ve got more chance of catching it indoors. We’re outdoors. I went to [the test event at] Dartford v Dover as a supporter just to see how it was working. Everybody was adhering to the rules. They weren’t bunching up in more than six people.

“They were adhering to what Dartford were saying you’re allowed to do. Supporters will do that, do the right thing for us to be able to watch the game.  Hopefully sooner rather than later but at the moment we’ve just got to get on with it and make sure we stay safe and don’t put ourselves in a situation where we could be in trouble.

“On the surface the chairman [Robin Stanton-Gleaves] and the directors have done a fantastic job here. We’ve never ever spent more than we’ve had. We’ve always done it on a tight budget and made sure it was right and sustainable. At the moment it is very difficult because we don’t know when the supporters are back.

“We’re putting the live stream on and bringing in some sort of revenue. The chairman has been amazing. I do fear for some clubs. Obviously, Macclesfield, a club like that going out, Bury last year. That was before Covid.

“You’re looking at it now and thinking I don’t know how this can’t be sustainable for too long. It’s great that the government are helping out and giving grants but he long-term future is going to be difficult. I just hope as many clubs can survive as they can.”

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