HEREFORD FC, along with other clubs, are facing significant challenges in preparing to return to football.

The National League are currently issuing protocols containing guidance for clubs which ​is based on the Government’s coronavirus guidance on the phased return of sport and recreation.

The challenges the club have faced, over the last few months, have more than tested the resilience and capacity, as a club.

Changes in the board have not made matters any easier, but we are now much stronger and more structured, as a club.

The club has turned off a path of significant financial loss and this can only bode well for us to achieve that ‘sustainability’ we have all strived for.

One constant, throughout this surreal period in our brief history, as a club, has been the loyalty and continued support from undoubtedly the best fans in football.

I have previously thanked and praised the volunteers who give their time for the love of their club, the sponsors and commercial partners for standing beside us, and the season ticket holders, who committed to last season and lost out when the lockdown forced the cancellation of home fixtures.

Businesses across the nation have suffered through restrictions in trade. Football is no different from other businesses in this regard and those with stadiums like Edgar Street, will have seen outgoings exceed income on almost every level.

The resilient HFC Board, volunteers, other key staff (and we must mention Ben Bowen from High Ground Maintenance who present an immaculate pitch season after season), have all collectively worked tirelessly to get us to this point, where the assurance of a safe environment, and ‘fit for purpose’ Edgar Street, be opened once again.

We have approached this preparation in a controlled, structured manner, no knee-jerk panics, and I am confident that we have given ourselves a solid platform to continue to build from. In terms of crowd numbers under Stage 5, it is likely, as suspected, that ground capacities will be significantly reduced from normal levels.

The “socially distanced” capacity for Edgar Street stadium will need to be continually assessed in compliance with Government guidance and in conjunction with Herefordshire Council.

This has necessitated some changes inside the stadium for the 2020/21 season, some enforced through Covid-19 compliance, with others introduced to enable us to maximise capacity without impacting on safety.

One of the challenges we have faced in the run up to a return to football has been how we best manage the FA imposed Covid-19 restrictions, in respect of season tickets and seat allocations! We cannot emphasise enough the challenges we have faced, and I can only thank once again, those who have contributed, and continue to contribute, towards ensuring a safe and sustainable return to football.

We remain committed to ensuring as many fans as possible get to see matches at Edgar Street, safely, under reduced capacity restrictions.

I hope that as many people as possible can commit to purchasing season tickets as this will provide the barometer for how accurate and comfortable we are with our budget forecasts for the season ahead, whilst securing the best possible budget for Josh and Steve.

I look forward to welcoming our fans back as soon as possible and, as we continue to assemble a squad, remain optimistic for the season ahead.

By Andrew Graham, chairman of Hereford FC