FA UPDATE
The FA issued the following press release this week:

On Monday 17 May, as part of the next step of the Government’s roadmap out of national lockdown, there will be further changes to the restrictions on ‘non-elite’ football. Our guidance has therefore been updated to reflect this.

The key changes to note are in relation to spectators, indoor hospitality and indoor football and Futsal.

This updated guidance comes into effect on Monday 17 May and until then all participants should follow our guidance for Step 2 which can be found here. You can read the Government guidance here.

The key changes to be aware of are:

Spectators
From Step 3, spectators will be permitted to view events on both public and private land but need to adhere to social distancing rules and social gathering limits set at groups of 30 outdoors and six people/two households indoors. Please note that multiple numbers of these group sizes are permitted as long as social distancing rules are followed.

Spectators are allowed indoors, but the total number of all participants, coaches, officials and spectators must comply with the ventilation rates permitted by the particular venue. You can find more information about this here.

At larger events, capacity limits for spectators, set by The Government will apply. For indoor events this is 1000 or 50 per cent of capacity and for outdoor events this is 4000 or 50 per cent of capacity (whichever is lower in both cases).

Indoor Hospitality
As part of Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, both outdoor and indoor hospitality at ‘non-elite’ football is permitted. All participants must follow Government guidance on hospitality settings and specific advice for sport facility operators available on the Government’s website. People using clubhouses and hospitality facilities must adhere to legal gathering limits and wider government guidance.

Indoor Football and Futsal
From Step 3, indoor gatherings of either six people (the ‘rule of six’) or two households can take place. This means that organised indoor adult and children football can return.

For organised indoor sport and physical activity, there’s no limit on group numbers so long as people adhere to capacity restrictions on indoor facilities. The maximum occupancy of each indoor facility should be limited by providing a minimum of 100 square ft per person.

This guidance applies to all youth and adult football and futsal, including all formats of the game. If there are any further updates from the Government, we will communicate these in due course and we will continue to update our guidance as we move through the different steps of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

It is extremely important that clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents, carers, and facility providers continue to strictly follow both the UK Government’s latest guidance on COVID-19 and respective bespoke guidance documents from the FA. Any incidents of non-compliance should be reported to the local County Football Association.

This means Hitchin Town would be allowed up to 900 supporters at their games. This will hopefully increase if/when further restrictions are lifted in June.

FOOTBALL UPDATE
The players had a further training session on Thursday evening. They will have a couple more, then a short break before starting training for next season. We hope to be able to give more news on our pre-season games next week.

SOCIAL CLUB UPDATE BY MICK DOCKING
The Glorious 17th. No – not start of the grouse shooting season that’s the 12th August, but far more important, it’s Canary Club reopening day.

It has been a marathon closure which believe it or not started on 16th December last year. Finally our doors can reopen and our deprived customers can resume all those half -finished conversations over a pint or three.

During closure we have taken the opportunity to refresh the old place – as well as attending to some big jobs that have long been overdue.

The new suspended ceiling in the hall together with smart new flooring breathes new life into the place. The toilets were upgraded last year and the recent works mean the hall is now lighter and brighter and will hopefully trigger a host of bookings that have been missed out on in recent years. Twenty years ago the Canary Club hall was booked every Saturday night and most Fridays – why not again? A central location, large car park, good capacity and prices that are much cheaper than most of our competitors. Please ring 01462 421888 or 07857 983345 to make a booking.

Steve and his great team are as committed as ever and can’t wait to get back to pulling pints.

For the moment we are still operating social distancing with the rule of 6, table service and masks when not seated, but fingers crossed that will be relaxed shortly.

For the moment opening hours will be:

  • Monday, Tuesday and Thursday: 4pm until close
  • Wednesday and Friday: 2pm until close
  • Saturday and Sunday 11am until close

These will be reviewed on a regular basis. See you all next week.

ACADEMY UPDATE BY MICHAEL JONES
On Wednesday 12th May we played away to Bedford FC Mens (Step 6). The fixture was used to expose our players to senior football. We played some excellent football throughout and scored some brilliant goals in the process. The final score ended in an 8-0 victory for us. We are now looking to arrange some more fixtures against Step 5/6 teams to give our young academy players further exposure to senior football.

Our next trial date has been confirmed as Saturday 22nd May. The trial will take place at the Arena Baldock SG7 5AU on the all weather pitch between 12noon & 2pm. To register your interest or for further information please use this link – https://www.northhertsarena.co.uk/next-trial-dates

HITCHIN TOWN LADIES FC UPDATE BY CALLUM ELLIS
It was the fifth round of fixtures of Division E of the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Women’s Football League on Sunday 9th May 2021. It was the return fixture between the two Hitchin Town Ladies FC teams. In the first fixture the Reserves won the three points and it was time for the rematch. Hitchin Town Radio returned to give you live commentary throughout the game and they really did a grand job!

It was a tough first half throughout with the Firsts just edging the Reserves. It was ex-reserves player Clarke who fired the ball past Nemeth in the 42nd minute for what was a thoroughly deserved goal and her first since the return of football after lockdown. However the second half was the really entertaining half which unfortunately I missed! Edwards for the Reserves team fired a wild shot from 25 yards into the top corner giving no chance to Reinsford to save it. However both teams picked the tempo up and there was a flurry of goals from Allen, Shackell and Thompson. After this rush of goals the final whistle was blown and it was a 4-2 win for the First team.

The next and final round of fixtures are on Sunday 16th May 2021, 14:00 kick off:

Hitchin Belles host Hitchin Town Ladies FC Firsts at The Priory School, Bedford Road. Due to current guidelines still no spectators allowed.

Herts Vipers Development host Hitchin Town Ladies Reserves at The County Ground, Letchworth Garden City. Again due to current guidelines, still no spectators allowed.

SUPPORTER ENGAGEMENT UPDATE BY SASCHA GUSTARD-BROWN
Just the one item from me this week… As I am sure many of you have seen, news of The Aviary was announced yesterday. It is such an exciting project to be working on and this will be my primary focus for the next couple of months. There are lots of decorations and games already sourced and many other ideas in the pipeline too. I will aim to update supporters with the project’s progress as the weeks go on. For further information on The Aviary, check out the web story by clicking here.

GROUND/CROWDFUNDER UPDATE BY PAUL SPRAGUE
The last few weeks have continued to see great progress across the whole of Top Field. In terms of ground improvements we have seen both our contractor and volunteer works really starting to take shape and the finished works starting to give us a glimpse of how we expect Top Field to look at the start of the new season.

The contractors have progressed with the new boundary fencing and this will shortly be complete. It’s also been great to see all the positive feedback to the signage works that have now been completed. This has included the new fixture board, main stand sign and other various small signs around the ground. These all now proudly display our new branding.

In terms of volunteer works – we can never thank our volunteers enough for the huge amount of effort they have always put in at the club, but especially so over the last 9 months. The amount of work that has been achieved is absolutely astounding. Particular jobs over the last few weeks that are now heading towards completion include the refurbishment of the two terraces behind the dugouts and the full painting of the main stand.

As well as all of this progress on the ground you will see in Mick’s update the Canary Club has seen a huge amount of work, making it much brighter and appealing. The pitch is also receiving improvements in terms of drainage works alongside its normal seasonal works.

We are so excited for everyone to be back and enjoying everything that is being achieved at Top Field. In the meantime we will continue to keep you updated with more pictures on our social media over the next few weeks.

MERCHANDISE UPDATE
We hope you will all continue to support our new direction by considering investment in even one small item of merchandise. Sales have continued to be healthy this week and we have replenished our stocks. It is a fact that even the purchase of a pin badge means vital money coming to the club at a time where every single penny absolutely counts. Thanks as always for your support.

Apart from the new shirts, we have green polo shirts, two different types of Hitchin Town mugs, a new scarf and a new pin badge. We will be looking to introduce new lines as we progress, but if you haven’t already done so, please visit our online shop and take a look at what we have on offer. Buying these items online is the only way of obtaining them at the current time.

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK
I hope you have all read our club chaplain Nick Smith’s excellent article that relates football to mental health awareness. He offers important advice that could really help anybody suffering mental health issues. I sent the article to the Non-League Paper and they hope to include it in this Sunday’s edition.

BY ROY IZZARD