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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Conference in crowd boost
By Pete Oliver

Chester fans celebrate promotion to Division Three
Chester fans celebrate promotion to Division Three
The 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, which finished last Saturday.

"We are absolutely thrilled," Conference chief executive John Moules told BBC Sport.

"If you add the play-offs and cup matches to that, close to 1m people will have watched our football this season."

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

"A lot of things have contributed, but this is still traditional English football, which is affordable, family football played at a high standard."

With interest growing and two promotion places to the Nationwide League available, the Conference is strengthening its claim to be English football's fifth division.

Chester City have regained Third Division status by winning the Conference title and all four of the clubs competing in the play-offs - Hereford, Shrewsbury, Aldershot and Barnet - are all ex-League clubs.

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.

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

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.

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