Non-League Finals Day - Petition aimed at persuading FA to allow fans to attend Wembley Stadium is launched
The man behind a petition aimed at persuading the Football Association to allow fans to attend Non-League Finals Day at Wembley Stadium believes that a re-think by the game's governing body would make a "lot of people very happy".
Phillip Holdsworth, who is Harrogate Town's Supporter Liaison Officer, has called upon FA Board chief executive Mark Bullingham and culture secretary Oliver Dowden to reconsider the date which has been set for the belated hosting of 2019/20 FA Trophy and FA Vase finals.
Both last season's FA Trophy final between Harrogate and Concord Rangers, and the FA Vase showpiece which pits Consett against Hebburn Town are due to take place on May 3, a fortnight before spectators are allowed to begin attending sporting events in this country once again.
Holding these fixtures behind closed doors means that fans of the aforementioned clubs will miss the extremely rare opportunity to watch their teams compete for silverware at the home of football.
Thus, Holdsworth is hoping to get enough signatures on his online petition to force the FA to change its mind.
"I'm hopeful that the FA will look at the petition in a reasonable light," he told the Harrogate Advertiser.
"To be fair to them, I do believe that they want supporters there, however it's difficult in terms of the logistics and I do appreciate that.
"But, having missed out on the play-off final at Wembley last summer, this is a double-whammy for Harrogate Town's fans, some of whom will probably never have another opportunity to go and watch their team play there.
"Obviously this pandemic has been awful, and I don't want to see anybody else suffer, but part of that suffering has been to do with people's mental health and their emotional well-being.
"If football is a big part of your life, then for supporters to be able to go to Wembley for Non-League Finals Day could be a massive boost. What a memory that would be. They [the FA] could make an awful lot of people very happy if they reconsider their decision."
Having sought feedback from fellow Harrogate fans regarding the new Trophy final date, Holdsworth detected such an overwhelming sense of disappointment and frustration that he felt compelled to act.
The Sulphurites made it to Wembley for the first time in their 106-year history last summer, beating Notts County 3-1 in the National League play-off final to secure an historic promotion to the Football League.
Covid-19 restrictions meant that supporters could only watch that momentous occasion unfold on television, but the FA's apparent determination to wait until it was possible for spectators to attend matches again before rearranging Non-League Finals Day convinced them that they would not miss out on a second chance to visit the famous arch.
The goalposts have, however, now been moved.
"I was talking to other supporters about the new date for the final and there was a real strength of feeling that the FA's decision was totally unfair," Holdsworth said.
"They didn't consult with any of the clubs involved and, what is worse, is that they had given fans the impression that they were going to rearrange for a date when supporters would be able to attend.
"So, I sat and thought long and hard about what I could do, and I realised that one thing would be to start a petition. On Sunday night I sat down and wrote everything out and set it up. Hopefully it makes a difference."
As it stands, his petition is asking for the date of Non-League Finals Day to be altered, though Holdsworth believes a slight change in tact may be required.
"Looking at it now, I think that it would be better to modifying the petition slightly to include the idea of using the FA Trophy and FA Vase finals as test events," he added.
"The FA Cup final on May 15 will be used to test the return of crowds to stadiums, so why don't the FA do the same thing with Non-League Finals Day?
"They say they want fans to be able to attend, but don't have any other available dates. They could stick to the May 3 date if they did this and then supporters don't have to miss out."
Anyone wishing to sign Holdsworth's petition can do so here: