TO be tagged an ‘elite’ club is something of a double-edged sword – and requires a trade-off that York City manager Steve Watson does not accept lightly.
Elite football clubs are those that play in the top six tiers of the English game, comprising the Premier League, the Football League and the National League.
Plying their trade in the National League North, at the sixth level of the pyramid, York find themselves near the cut-off point.
As such, the Minstermen were narrowly denied the ability to host fans at their matches, as teams at Step 3 and below have been able to do. Tadcaster Albion welcomed 317 fans to their last weekend home game, three-quarters the maximum number of fans a Step 4 side can hold under coronavirus restrictions.
However, non-elite sides have also seen their seasons put on hold once again as a second national lockdown has come into effect until December 2 – with York’s division again not far from the dividing line.
Asked about the balance of being able to continue playing but not being able to host fans, Watson said: “We’re all bitterly disappointed that we haven’t got fans.
“Would we rather have fans back in football? One hundred per cent. I think every football club would say the same thing.
“And that’s for a number of reasons, the main reason being that it’s for the fans and for the fans’ mental well-being. Going to football games is what supporters do. Some of them live for it.
“So that part is obviously going to be disappointing for everybody.
“But would I rather still be cracking on with football than not? Yes, I certainly would be, and I think all the players would.
“Otherwise, you’re just going to have a lost season.
“They’re never going to fit a full season into when fans may be able to return, so if it’s a case of having a season or not, we’d all rather be playing.
“But it’s nowhere near the same without the fans there.”