By Ashley Cox

THE players of Barry Town were back at Jenner Park last week, but fans hoping for a glimpse of their side in European action this summer have been left disappointed by a new UEFA ruling.

While professional football in the UK has been played exclusively behind-closed-doors since its return in mid-June, Barry supporters had hoped that a favourable away draw in the upcoming UEFA Europa League Preliminary Round could provide them with a unique chance to support their team in person; on foreign soil.

However, football's governing body for Europe poured cold water on this idea in their latest tournament correspondence, confirming all qualifying matches for the 2020-21 competition, as well as the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League, would be played behind-closed-doors "for reasons of sporting fairness", citing the format switch from two-legged ties to one-off matches as an integral, decisive factor.

With the logistical issues caused by Covid-19 transforming the qualifying stages, Barry's quest to advance in Europe for the first time since 2001 will now have to be realised without their drum-beating fanbase, whether the draw on August 9th pits them at home or sends them away.

It is largely expected that any home tie would have to be played at the Cardiff City Stadium, a facility now equipped for Covid-19 protocols after hosting a string of Championship fixtures this summer.

While the 2,000 or so spectators who watched last season's Europa League showdown with Cliftonville would fit comfortably distanced at the 33,000+ capacity home of Cardiff City, it seems Barry may instead be greeted by a most unusual atmosphere, in what has already been a summer without precedent.

Making the best of the strangest cards dealt, officials were able to offer some normality as the Barry squad resumed its Europa League preparations with a high-spirited training session at Jenner Park.

With Gavin Chesterfield and Mike Cosslett gleefully back in their coaching saddles, fan favourites Kayne McLaggon, Paul Morgan, Clayton Green, Evan Press and goalkeeper Mike Lewis were among the Barry players pleased as punch to be out on the famous field once again.

Although it remains unknown when matches will return to Jenner Park, this first toe dipped into the water brings hope for all deprived of action since the JD Cymru Premier came to its abrupt halt.

Broadcast partners of Wales' national league, S4C covered a number of the European games last season and it is thought a similar deal will be struck to allow Barry supporters to follow their team's fortunes on TV across town.

Though few could have forecast the circumstances that have shaped Barry's route to Europe, manager Chesterfield will be eager to maximise every resource at his disposal, with the home comforts of Jenner Park providing a timely boost.

While the stadium's 17-year wait for European club football goes on, victory for Barry on August 20, wherever it may be, would be a tale told from clubhouse to grandstand for years to come.