Boost for fans as Harrogate Town allowed capacity crowds once Covid restrictions end
Harrogate Town has been awarded a general safety certificate to hold full capacity games next season once all coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
The club completed works to expand its 5,000-seater EnviroVent Stadium following promotion to League Two last year but even without any Covid disruptions this many spectators could not have been allowed in until now.
This is because any Football League or Premier League ground in England that has a capacity over 5,000 must be granted permission by their local authority.
And while coronavirus restrictions have kept Town's gates closed since January, the club's managing director Garry Plant was awarded a general safety certificate by North Yorkshire County Council on Tuesday.
It marks a major boost for fans as it means the club could hold full capacity games during the 2021/22 season if the government's roadmap out lockdown stays on schedule.
Mr Plant told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "The best day is match day and we haven't had a single one with fans this year so we can't wait to see the stands and terraces full once again.
"We have missed our supporters so much. It is the Bradford City game this weekend - can you imagine how much of a great atmosphere that would have been?
"The council have been extremely supportive of our plans - especially the safety advisory team - and we would like to give them a big thanks."
Under the government's roadmap, from 17 May larger outdoor sports venues will be allowed to operate at up to 25% capacity with a maximum of 10,000 spectators.
Restrictions will be eased further from 21 June, but with all adults not expected to be offered at least their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine until the end of July, full venues at major sports events are understood to be unlikely until late summer at the earliest.
And with Harrogate Town's season set to end just nine days before 17 May, it means supporters will have to wait until August before they can return to the EnviroVent Stadium.
The restrictions also means players will once again be greeted by empty seats when they walk out at Wembley to contest the 2019/20 FA Trophy final against Concord Rangers on 3 May.
This comes after the club's historic win over Notts County to secure promotion to league football was also played behind closed doors at the stadium in London.
Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, trading standards officer at the county council, said the club's "massive success" in reaching League Two should be celebrated not just in Harrogate but across North Yorkshire.
She said: "They have done marvellously and we want to help them as much as we can with guidance and advice to get things back underway with people back through the doors once again."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter