Clubs at steps 3 & 4 of the National League system were yesterday given a proposed roadmap of the various scenario's in which way may find ourselves once football with fan's can be allowed to restart.
Since June, the FA has submitted three proposals to DCMS for the safe return of fans; DCMS are supportive of those proposals and are waiting for approval from HM government. We are all frustrated at the lack of response but, with DCMS support, are pressing HMG for an urgent response and that fans be allowed to attend games. The FA Alliance Leagues’ stance is still that playing games behind closed doors is not financially viable.
The Northern Premier League are committed to starting the 2020/21 season on 19th September, providing government allows clubs to admit spectators. However, there is recognition for the fact that issues beyond their – or our - control may mean that this date is not achievable.
To help clubs to forward plan, although the primary objective is to start the Step 3 & 4 playing season on 19th September, contingencies are set out as follows:
- Scenario 1: Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 19th September, finishes 8th May with Play-Offs the following week. Deadline for decision – Friday 21st August. The league then cannot start on 26th September due to FA Trophy.
- Scenario 2 : Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 3rd October, finishes 15th May with Play-Offs the following week. Deadline for decision – Friday 4th September.
- Scenario 3: Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 10th October, finishing 15th May. No Play-Offs: top two clubs promoted. Deadline for decision – Friday 11th September.
- Scenario 4: Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 17th October, finishing 15th May. No Play-Offs: top two clubs promoted. Deadline for decision – Friday 18th September.
- Scenario 5: Scenario 5 is subject to club approval via AGM or EGM, FA regulatory approval and will require changes to the NLS Regulations and Standardised Rules, which also require FA Council approval. Deadline for decision – TBC.At this point a full fixture programme is not possible without unreasonable levels of midweek and away travel. So, each Step 3 and 4 division is split into two smaller divisions, every club playing each other home and away to create a ‘half’ season, at the end of which, the split divisions are re-merged. The top five clubs will then play a Champions League style round-robin (ideally home and away) with the top 2 clubs promoted. The lowest ranked five will play each other, home and away, with the necessary number of clubs (i.e.reflecting withdrawals or resignations) being relegated. Clubs not featuring in Champion or Relegation Play-Offs will be able to enter a voluntary cup competition.
It should also be understood that there are no perfect solutions to this problem, and that it is impossible to accurately predict the precise circumstances that will apply at any future date. However, the Step 3 & 4 leagues believe that this proposal provides as much clarity as we can provide at this time.