WHILE clubs high up the English football’s pyramid head into the winter unsure of when supporters can return, there is better news elsewhere.

Locally, Oxfordshire’s clubs in the Southern League and Hellenic League are able to accommodate socially-distanced supporters.

At Ardley United, they have seen average gates quadruple from the 40 who were coming through the turnstiles last term.

Ian Feaver, the club’s chairman, said: “The difference this season is huge, we’re averaging about 160.

“I think it’s been a combination of things – people not being able to watch matches higher up the pyramid like at Oxford United and others who just want to get out and do something.

“The limit for attendances at our level is 300 and I laughed when it came in because I didn’t think we would get anywhere near it, but we had 250 for one game.

“There are more people in the village coming down, but plenty from around Bicester as well.

“Away support has also grown as people make a day of it.”

It is early days, but there is also evidence of growth in the division above.

Of the five Oxfordshire clubs in Division One Central of the Southern League, four are showing double-digit increases on last season.

The exception is at North Leigh, who have only played one league game at home, which was a midweek fixture when crowds tend to be lower.

Although many of the extra supporters come in as concessions, Feaver still estimates takings have roughly doubled.

He said: “I know there are a lot of clubs finding this really difficult.

“It really depends on where you are in the pyramid with how you’re coping.

“Crowds are definitely up at our level.”

And the Ardley chief also believes it is having an impact on the pitch.

“Our players are really enjoying it,” he said.

“We had a game against Burnham last weekend and were 2-0 down, then scored in the 90th and 93rd minute to draw 2-2.

“You could definitely hear the difference with the crowd.”