Sport

Record attendances

The Nationwide Conference is celebrating record attendances as its season heads for a climax with the promotion play-offs.

The Nationwide Conference is celebrating record attendances as its season heads for a climax with the promotion play-offs.

More people than ever watched Conferences games in the regular season.The total attendance of 880,220, at an average gate of 1,905, bettered the previous best of 751,758, with an average of 1,627, set in the 1998/99 season.

"We are absolutely thrilled," Conference chief executive John Moules. "If you add the play-offs and cup matches to that, close to one million people will have watched our football this season."

"It shows we are going from strength to strength. The facilities and standard of football is improving all the time."

Chester have returned to the Third Division with the Conference title. In the play-offs, Hereford travelled to Aldershot for the first leg lasy night while Barnet were at home to Shrewsbury. The second legs are on Monday (ko 3pm).

Meanwhile, Accrington Stanley's switch to full-time status in the summer will take the number of fully professional clubs in the Conference to 12.

In addition, Aldershot, Burton and Gravesend are considering switching to full-time football.

The make-up of next season's Conference will be confirmed on May 31.

Telford, struggling for financial survival, will have to confirm that they can fulfil their fixtures next season, while Margate need to show evidence of building work at Hartsdown Park to retain their places.

Leigh RMI and Northwhich Victoria will be waiting for a possible reprieve from relegation to the new Conference North, with Farnborough already saved by Hucknall and Drolysden's inability to be promoted from the UniBond League.