Bans on entry to football league games has driven supporters towards non-league football as Corinthian-Casuals vs. Leatherhead FC brought sell-out crowds.
The current rules stipulate that sides below step two on the National League pyramid can permit fans into their grounds while sides from the National League North/South and above cannot.
As the highest-rated amateur side in the country, Corinthian-Casuals have provided an alternative option for match-going football fans.
In previous seasons, Casuals would have expected attendances of around 300.
Media officer Stuart Tree said: “We’ve had increased interest from fans of football league sides like Brentford and Wimbledon, getting their football fix.
“Going to games is part of people’s Saturday routine, it’s part of their culture. Staying at home is probably alien to what they’re used to doing.
“A lot of these fans are people who go home and away, so staying indoors is an unusual experience.
“It’s the matchday experience they crave above anything else, and we can provide the closest thing to that normal experience.
“There’s also a lot of advantages to non-league, like being able to have a drink on the terraces and mix with other fans, rather than having to sit down.”
The increased turnout could have benefits in maintaining the club through the pandemic.
Tree added: “We’ve signed more sponsors than we have ever done in previous years. Maybe that’s down to us becoming more visible. There was a fear that maybe sponsors wouldn’t be as forthcoming in this day and age.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have people come forward and say they’d be happy to sponsor us.”
While they are thriving financially, Corinthian-Casuals have struggled to implement measures to match the changes to restrictions.
Tree said: “We’re having to change things on the fly all the time. The tier two changes on food and drink rules came too quickly for us to change things in time for our game against Enfield, meaning we couldn’t serve refreshments on the day.”
Further rule changes mean clubs can only sell alcohol to people when they are sitting down, but Tree said this creates unnecessary pressure.
He added: “It’s baffling to suggest that if you’re standing you’re more likely to catch coronavirus.
“It’s crazy not only to implement but to police. We’re all volunteers who do this because it’s what we love. Things like this test your limits.
“It seems that every five minutes they’re coming up with new ideas. They aren’t giving their plans time to work out, and it feels like the powers that be are panicking. We’re on the receiving end of that.
“I understand it’s a fluid situation, but we feel like we’re putting in the correct measures.
“We have temperature checks at the gates, we’ve put in track and trace, enforcing social distancing, hand sanitising points, a one-way system at the bar.
“We believe we are doing everything we possibly can, but we still have to keep adapting.”
Corinthian-Casuals have also been unable to hire out their bar for private events and slammed the government’s ‘wholly unnecessary’ ban on entry for Dulwich Hamlet supporters ahead of their FA Cup tie in September.
Tree said: “It’s frustrating because we would have sold far more tickets than we did had there been no restrictions on step two teams.
“They should set out their guidelines and stick to them.”