FOOTBALL fans will be allowed to return to the stands after the government announced non-league clubs could allow them back in.

Clubs in leagues below National League North and South will be allowed to welcome in fans for the first time since March after more than 30 MPs wrote to sports minister Nigel Huddleston calling for the "urgent return of fans to non-league clubs".

This means a clear line has been drawn between what the FA terms "Elite" and "Recreational" football, with everything from the Premier League down to National League South and North being considered "Elite".

A campaign widely supported on social media by teams including Worcester City and Worcester Raiders has gained significant attention, drawing more than 9,000 signatures demanding a return to stadiums.

The letter to Mr Huddleston was organised by former sports minister Tracey Crouch and Dame Cheryl Gillian, who warned clubs could be "lost forever" if an exemption was not granted.

Mrs Crouch said: "Football has many wonderful layers but non-league is often at its heart and soul.

"With fewer fans it's easier to make clubs Covid secure but without them coming back soon their future is shaky so we've written to the sports minister calling for non-league clubs to let fans in."

Mr Huddleston published an open letter responding to the campaign, saying guidelines had been "clarified" to allow the return of spectators.

He wrote: "The guidance under which elite sport was able to resume does not apply to individuals or teams who do not meet the definition of elite sportspeople contained within the guidance.

"Non-elite football is covered by the Return to Recreational Sport Framework and the supplementary guidance provided by the DA within that overall framework.

"We have today updated the section on spectators to provide more guidance to clubs on the steps they need to take to safely manage any crowds. I understand the FA have also updated their guidance to reflect this.

"Whilst it is up to the sports to determine what constitutes the boundary between elite sport and non elite within their sports, I am delighted that the FA's definition means leagues below the National League North and South can continue with spectators.

"Thank you again for raising your concerns, we are determined to help local clubs return stronger than ever."