However, there is a growing likelihood that the season will be abandoned altogether, with must clubs in the league very unhappy about the government’s decision not to underwrite the additional costs of playing games behind closed doors.
Grants were made to cover costs during the autumn period. The expectation at that time was that the virus would be under control by Christmas. For a time small crowds were allowed back into some grounds.
However soaring COVID-19 cases led to a further lockdown, with fans having to watch games via streaming services.
Most clubs at National North level exist on modest budgets and depend on the services of part time players. Most players have other jobs (York is a full-time outfit).
The government offered loans to clubs to cover lost revenue. Most indicated that they could not legally continue trading at a loss, which would have been one of the consequences of the loan idea.
Last week 12 clubs wrote to the National League saying that the season should be abandoned if the government did not change its approach.
One club chairman pointed out that if the season were halted – and players and staff put on furlough – then this would cost the government more than extending the grant system until grounds were able to reopen.
Money is not the only issue.
Some clubs are having difficulty accessing COVID testing facilities. That is something that the government could and should fix quickly.
Another club Chief Executive said,
“With the fact that there is no testing paid for, unlike higher in the pyramid, it was not fair to put players, staff & their families at risk. Although a separate issue to the club funding it was equally important to get that resolved if by some miracle the season does continue. Some players have pregnant wives, live with older parents etc… Putting them & their loved ones at risk. Plus of course interaction in players workplaces again adding to the chance of infection”.
While there may be some element of brinkmanship from the clubs as they seek to get the best deal possible, the government should recognise that it is their decisions that have caused the problem.
They should quickly agree to continue the grants system agreed last summer.
Ironically, if National League football is halted, then the first competitive game to be played at the new Community Stadium may feature the York Knights Rugby team! They are hoping to start their fixtures on 21st March 2021.
Joint Statement from York City Football Club and City of York council about the York Community Stadium
“We are delighted to announce that an agreement has now been reached between City of York Council and York City Football Club. The club will occupy the new stadium with effect from Monday 11 January 2021, with their first game due to be held on Tuesday 19 January as they take on Gateshead in a National League clash.
Both parties have worked extremely hard to overcome any obstacles in the delivery of the project, with the aim of having York City Football Club in their new home as soon as possible.
Both parties would like to make clear that all recent issues have been resolved and our primary focus is on readying the stadium for fixtures this month.
The Council recognises that recent public statements regarding elements of the YCFC lease were unfortunately misrepresented and we look forward to building on this positive working relationship moving forward.
Cllr Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Finance and Performance, said: “We would like to thank York City Football Club for their input and involvement in the project and we look forward to a very bright future for both of the cities sporting teams. We look forward to welcoming Gateshead FC later this month. Our aim throughout our work on the York Community Stadium project has been to deliver an incredible stadium and wider leisure facility for supporters, residents and the wider York community. The new stadium boasts 8,500 seats and has already been recognised by the FA and RFL as one of the finest smaller stadiums in the country, with both organisations looking to use the site in the future, not just for the Rugby World Cup later this year!”
Jason McGill: “On behalf of everyone at York City Football Club, our staff players and supporters, we thank the Council for delivering this great stadium and look forward to our next chapter, with the LNER Community Stadium as our home.”
City of York Council and operators GLL have confirmed that the LNER Community Stadium complex has been completed.
The project was agreed by the Council in 2008 with the original intention of opening the facility in 2012. At that time it had been expected that the section 106 contribution from the developers of the Vanguard shopping centre would have covered all the costs of the new stadium.
The reality is that taxpayers now face a £15 million+ bill.
Nevertheless the stadium will be a welcome addition to the City’s facilities, although it remains unclear when all services located there will actually be up and running.
York City’s next home fixture is scheduled to take place on 28th December.
The Council has issued a media statement saying that, with the final safety checks complete, the council and GLL will formally take control of the site from the building contractors on Friday 18 December.
The council and GLL are now working with partners to make sure residents benefit from the many sports, services and facilities it will host as soon as possible.
an 8,500 seater stadium for York City Football Cub and York City Knights
a community hub, including a library and community offices for York’s sports clubs
York Against Cancer shop and offices
NHS outpatient services
new swimming facilities, gym, dance studio and sports hall with spectator seating
The York Councils Executive is being told that the new Community Stadium will be handed over later this month. There has so far not been any confirmation by the Council, their contractors GLL or the two prospective occupiers of the stadium (York City FC and York Knights RLFC).
York City are playing at home today and, in theory, they could have welcomed up to 2000 fans to the match (which will be held at Bootham Crescent). As the statement below, taken from the City web site makes clear, fans will not be admitted as it has not been possible to take Bootham Crescent out of mothballs yet.
“When the Prime Minister announced, on the 23rd November, that fans could attend football matches we knew it was going to be a race against time to get the necessary certificates and approvals for Bootham Crescent.
As previously communicated, we have been poised to move out of Bootham Crescent and into the LNER Community Stadium for a number of months and as such we have been careful not to unnecessarily invest important club funds into Bootham Crescent.
Despite a huge amount of effort from staff and our loyal volunteers, we are unable to welcome fans back on Saturday 5th December as we are still waiting for external providers to certify parts of the stadium, work which will surpass the deadline given by regulatory bodies.
We know fans will be disappointed, we understand and share that feeling but safety must be our priority and we cannot welcome fans to a stadium which is not properly certified.
We’ll continue to work hard to get Bootham Crescent ready for fans to come back as soon as possible and share updates when we can.
The situation is slightly ironic as the Council last week issued a statement backing the York Knights bid to gain super league status. A key part of the bid was the quality of their proposed home at the Community Stadium; a facility with no opening date!
According to GLL the stadium will be handed over before Christmas
It seems that work on the LNER Community Stadium has finally been completed. With York City’s 20/21 fixture list due to be published on Tuesday, fans will be wondering how many will be able to get into the stadium from 3rd October start date?
No details of the required “test events” have been published and it is also unclear when the sports centre will open.
It is 16 years since the football club were given notice to quit Bootham Crescent by the then owner.
Members of Parliament have written to the Sports Minister asking when clubs like York City will be able to reopen their grounds.
The MP’s highlighted the perilous position of many non league clubs finances.
Uncertainty – about when paying customers will be able to attend games – and in what numbers – is putting some clubs under threat of closure.
The MPs pointed to the imminent start of the pre-season “friendly” programme.
Although neither of the local MPs signed the 21st August letter, York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said he supported a more general plea made in a letter sent on 17th August and subsequently backed this up with an Email last Monday. There has been no word from York Central MP Rachel Maskell in whose constituency the present York City/York Knights ground is located.
Currently the expectation is that, when the National Leagues resume in October, around 30% of the seats may be available for supporters.
There is a particular problem for York City FC who will manage the new LNER community stadium at Monks Cross. Before they can take full occupation a “test” event involving 3000 spectators must take place. This would allow a safety certificate for the 8500 seater stadium to be issued.
There has been a suggestion – as a result of the health restrictions on capacity which are likely to apply for a few months at least – that certification for a smaller capacity might be possible.
There has been no word from the stadium owners – the York Council – about how and when this might be achieved.
There are 6 weeks to go until the start of the football season for clubs like York City
Building work is still continuing at the site of the LNER Community Stadium at Monks Cross. It seems that it will be some time before all the buildings can be brought into use.
The main area of concern remains the stadium itself. The authorities failed to stage the required test events before the lockdown led to a suspension of most work.
The test events – of varying capacities – are a prerequisite for the issue of asafety certificate. Without a certificate the stadium can’t be commissioned.
It is something of a paradox that – because of social distancing regulations – initially only a proportion of the capacity would be used. The (National League) football season is due to start at the beginning of October. That is only seven weeks away. Players will recommence training shortly and it is customary to stage friendly matches in the immediate run up to start of a season.
There is little clarify from the government at this stage about how social distancing might limit crowd numbers.
Some sports commentators have said that as few as 1 in 5 seats might be occupied.
Therein may be the rub for York City.
Social distancing is potentially much easier in an all seater stadium like the one at Monk Cross. If 20% of its 8512 seats were occupied then this would be enough to accommodate all season ticket holders plus a few more.
York City’s average attendance, during the last fully completed season (2018/19), was 2443.
In the same year the York Knights Rugby Team attracted 2125.
If one in three seats could be occupied (essentially respecting a 1 metre social distancing guideline) the all regular supporters could be accommodated.
Some other teams in the National League North have announced plans to ground share at stadiums with a larger capacity to accommodate all who wish to attend.
Hopefully the Council and its partners have plans in place to quickly finish off the remaining building work and find a way to open the stadium albeit possibly with a reduced capacity.
Planning application to be determined on 13th August
Council official are recommending that planning permission be granted to build 93 houses on the site of York City Football Clubs existing stadium. The Club is expected to move to a new stadium at Monks Cross later this year.
The development, which has been in the pipeline for over a decade, will comprise 12 one bed, 33 two bed, 37 three bed and 11 four bed properties. Of these 18 (20%) will be classed as “affordable”.
The plans incorporate a heritage proposal agreed with Historic England which acknowledges the significance of the football ground over the last 90 years.
It consequently incorporates the following elements that will give distinctive character to the development and evidence the site’s past use –
A memorial garden and a retained section of the west stand. The retained section of terrace along with evidence of the location of the centre circle within the landscaping will allow for orientation and evidence of the previous layout of the site.
The ‘proposed flag location’ annotated on the site plan relates to the flag present at the football ground (in a similar location). Historically the flag was lowered gradually towards the end of the game.
The west brick boundary wall, which predates use of the site by the football club will be retained (it will be lowered removing the blockwork).
The report goes on to say,
The retained terrace and tunnel will provide a lasting legacy of the stadium and create a focal point for memory and orientation. The location of the retained terrace and tunnel matches the desired position on the halfway line at the midpoint of the Popular Stand and in front of the POS. The precise length of the section will be determined by conservation, engineering and health and safety considerations but is not expected to exceed 6m.
The preferred location for the memorial garden is around the base of this structure to provide discreet location for remembrance. The side walls of the terrace could be used to support memorial plaques etc, while caskets and ashes could be buried at the base of the walls. Some existing metal fencing and gates in the Popular Stand could be appropriated to secure the perimeter at the top of the terrace and ends of the tunnel. Similarly, the wooden picket fence in front of the Popular Stand should be reclaimed to border the memorial garden.
The idea of recreating the centre circle in the middle of the POS is applauded, it would be in alignment with the retained section of terrace and provide a further place for orientation.
The flagpole was originally located between the south-east corner of the pitch and the stadium entrance. It is suggested that the new flagpole is erected as close as possible to this original location, and that it flies a replica of the club flag as a permanent and symbolic reminder of fans’ allegiance to Bootham Crescent. Its proposed location does not exactly match the original position, but it is as near as possible in the proposed layout. Ideally, like the centre circle, it should be slightly further south and east, closer to the new entrance.
Any development will not take place until both the football and Rugby Clubs have moved to the – much delayed – new stadium. Commissioning work there is still apparently held up by the after affects of the pandemic. Social distancing regulations currently make it impossible to stage large scale trial events there, an essential prerequisite for stadium certification.
Details of the planning committee report can be found by clicking here