Barrow AFC’s hope to have fans back at Holker Street soon has been dashed after the Government confirmed it will “pause” plans for a staged return of supporters to stadiums.

In a fresh blow to professional football, a rise in Covid-19 cases nationally has scuppered immediate aims to have supporters back in grounds.

It means there is unlikely to be a repeat in the near future of the test games seen in the EFL last weekend.

Barrow’s wait to play in front of supporters at the Progression Solicitors Stadium since their historic promotion back to the League will therefore go on.

And the news fans will not be back in grounds for a further period has raised fresh concerns over the financial viability of lower-league clubs.

Barrow said they are awaiting further guidance on the situation before commenting in any detail. Some of the Bluebirds’ counterparts have described the halt on fan test events as “incredibly bad news”.

Seven test games, involving 1,000 fans, were seen in the League last weekend. It had been hoped that more would take place this weekend, while Barrow’s League Two trip to Cumbrian rivals Carlisle United on Saturday week had also been pencilled in to be played in front of a limited number of supporters.

That now appears to be off the agenda after Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove confirmed the scheme to return fans to grounds was being postponed. Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Gove said: “It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning; it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.

“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, [we] get more people back.”

Gove acknowledged that the coronavirus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors, “but it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there is a lot of mingling”. He referred to games that were allowed to go ahead at the start of the pandemic earlier this year, and said with that in mind, “we must look at sporting events with caution”.

He added, though, that it was also necessary “to recognise that sport is a vital part of the life of this nation, and we’re looking at everything we can do in order to support our athletes and our great clubs through what will be a challenging time.”

Barrow host Colchester in League Two this Saturday.

News of the “pause” has intensified calls for a bail-out package for clubs and leagues, while it is now uncertain when the National League season will start.