SPECTATORS cannot yet attend pre-season friendlies, according to a leaked FA letter.

In a document widely circulated by several leagues on social media, the FA is concerned over reports that some clubs attracted crowds above 100 for pre-season games.

The Government’s behind-closed-doors policy for matches remains in force.

As such, the FA has re-emphasised the need for all National League System (NLS) clubs in Steps 1 to 6, plus Regional NLS Feeder Clubs at Step 7, to adhere to FA rules.

Clubs may still operate their clubhouses, provided no fans are allowed on the terraces.

This is due to separate government guidance on hospitality and spectators at sporting events.

In the letter, NLS head Laurence Jones said: “We are writing to you to provide some further clarity around the current position on spectators at pre-season matches.

“The guidance released by The FA on Saturday 18th July was clear that all friendlies with National League System clubs should be played behind closed doors. This has not changed.

“Whilst it is difficult to restrict spectators at a grassroots football fixture on a public recreation ground, this spectator guidance relates to low level numbers such as parents at a youth fixture in discrete six person gatherings and spread out.

“Over the weekend, as clubs returned to pre-season competitive fixtures, we understand some fixtures were played with spectators and, in a small number of cases, with a crowd in excess of 100.

“The guidance regarding gatherings is a clear government issued position and as such we must re-emphasise that ALL National League System pre-season fixtures should be played behind closed doors.

“Due to evidence received over this weekend we now need to extend behind closed doors to Regional NLS Feeder League Clubs (Step 7).

“This will also apply to pre-season matches played in an NLS or Regional NLS Feeder League ground including, for example, County FA or League Cup finals.”

Exceptions to the behind closed doors guidance centres around club officials and under-18s.

“Friendlies or other matches can have others not involved ‘on the pitch’ in the ground and this can provide for essential Club Officials only or, where an under-18 is playing in the fixture, a parent or guardian to fulfil safeguarding requirements. All must observe social distancing,” Jones clarified.

On Saturday, the Government suspended its pilot scheme for fans returning to elite sporting events by two weeks.

In his address to NLS clubs, Jones confirmed the FA is seeking a separate path as English football’s governing body hope to return fans to grounds when safe.

“You will be aware that Government suspended the test events for the return of spectators under Stage 5 of the Elite Sport Protocols, which much of the NLS does not fall under.

“As such, we are continuing our dialogue with DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) separately to the Stage 5 pilot project.

“The suspension however of the Pilot Events which had low spectator numbers shows that (the) Government are sensitive to crowds of all sizes and as such, crowds at pre-season matches does put the longer term supporter strategies at risk.

“We are working continuously with the Sports Ground Safety Authority, DCMS, Leagues and colleagues within The FA to bring ultimate guidance for spectators to return as soon as possible.”