Football season over - how the league’s announced the news
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The Covid-19 crisis has led to the 2019/20 football season being declared null and void which is a decision that will not be greeted with open arms at all clubs.
Exmouth Town were one of many clubs who had hoped that the current campaign would be played, in some shape or form, to a conclusion, but they will now have to effectively bring the curtain down on all that has been achieved in the season and start all over again bext season – and that is of course dependent on the Covid-19 situation having eased sufficiently to enable the 2020/21 campaign to get underway this August.
Many local clubs play in the Macron Devon & Exeter League and, while they have announced that all remaining league matches have been cancelled uncompleted cup campaigns may be carried over into next season.
The Football Association released a statement mid-afternoon on March 26 that read:
The Football Association [The FA] has been working collaboratively with the National League System [NLS], the Women’s Football Pyramid and the wider grassroots game since the outbreak of COVID-19 on how to conclude the 2019/20 season in the most appropriate way possible.
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The FA has decided that all grassroots football is concluded for the 2019/20 season.
This will allow the game to move forward and to commence planning for next season. Our County Football Associations [CFAs] will be supporting grassroots leagues over the coming days to determine how they should close out their current competitions.
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We respect the autonomy of CFAs, as the sanctioning bodies of grassroots leagues, as well as the autonomy of the leagues themselves to have local decision making rights in how these leagues are concluded. However, having taken guidance and to support leagues in the decisions they make, we recommend that two options are considered:
Competitions are brought to an immediate end with results expunged (i.e. without promotion or relegation occurring).
League positions and promotion and relegation are resolved by a points per game calculation.
These are challenging circumstances for English football and all decisions taken are in the best interests of the game and in consultation across key stakeholders. Our primary concern will always be for the safety and welfare of clubs, players, staff, officials, volunteers and supporters during this unprecedented time.
Today’s steps take into account the financial impact during this uncertain period, whilst considering the fairest method on how the sporting outcomes for the season will be decided, with the integrity of the Leagues in mind.
The NLS and the Women’s Football Pyramid were able to build a consensus amongst their leagues and, where possible, aimed to create a consistent approach across all leagues, whilst taking into account the unique characteristics of each individual league.
As a result, The FA and NLS Steps 3 to 6 have reached a consensus that their 2019/20 season will now be brought to an end, and all results will be expunged. This will mean no promotion or relegation of clubs between NLS Steps 3 to 6, and no promotion to NLS Step 2.
These decisions will also apply to the Leagues and clubs who play at NLS Step 7.
The National League [NLS Steps 1 and 2] have agreed that they want to attempt to complete the competition in line with the Premier League, EFL and Barclays FA Women’s Super League and Emirates FA Cup and are therefore seeking permission from The FA that the season for this level will be extended beyond 1 June 2020 indefinitely.
The planned implementation of the restructure of the NLS will also now be deferred until the start of the 2021/22 season.
Where appropriate, the above decisions will be put to The FA Council for ratification.
Throughout this period The FA continues to seek guidance in respect of the Government’s financial support packages relative to COVID-19 and how they are applicable to clubs in the NLS, the Women’s Football Pyramid and the wider grassroots game.
In the women’s game, The FA, FA Women’s Board members and the Women’s Football Conference have consulted and reached a consensus regarding the Women’s Football Pyramid.
The FA and the Leagues within Tiers 3 to 7 have reached a consensus to bring the season to an immediate end and all results will be expunged. This will mean no promotion or relegation of clubs between Tiers 3 to 7. Agreement has also been reached to end the Regional Talent Clubs season, which was due to conclude in April 2020.
We remain in consultation with the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship Board and clubs regarding the most appropriate way to complete the current season; including the Barclays FA Women’s Super League Academy.
With the Emirates FA Cup, Women’s FA Cup, Buildbase FA Trophy and Buildbase FA Vase 2019/20 all at advanced stages, The FA is reviewing all options as we seek to complete these competitions whenever it is safe and appropriate to do so. Clubs involved are close to reaching a major Final and for those clubs and supporters we will do all we can to keep the Wembley dream alive.
In respect of The FA Youth Cup, The FA County Youth Cup, The FA Sunday Cup and The FA Inter-League Cup, we are also seeking to complete these competitions if it is feasible to do so.
The FA will also continue planning for FA Competitions to take place for the 2020/21 season.
Here’s how the news was passed on by the respective leagues.
By the Western League (which is where Exmouth Town play their football)
The FA and leagues of Steps 3 to 6 of the NLS have reached a consensus that, the 2019/20 Season for Steps 3 to 6 will be ended with immediate effect and all results will be expunged. This will mean no promotion or relgation of clubs between Steps 3 to 6, or relegation from Step 2.
In light of the above, these decisions will also apply to the Leagues and Clubs who play at Step 7 of the National League System.
The planned implemention of the restructure of the NLS will be deferred until the start of the 2021/22 Season. The decisions reached by the NLS Leagues will be recommended to the FA Board and FA Council for final ratification.
By the South West Peninsula League (which is where Sidmouth Town, Honiton Town and Axminster Town play their football)
I am sure many of you will now be aware that the Football Association have made rulings regarding the status and termination of the 2019/20 season which they have declared as “null & void”.
I want to explain issues that are still to be decided and also “where we go from here” – but before I do that I want to firstly Thank ALL clubs and their officers & players for their efforts in what has been the most trying of seasons for us all. Secondly, some clubs in both divisions (and clubs at Step 7 who had applied to join us) were in line for league honours and for some promotion, it will be no consolation to them that all promotion & relegation nationally is now off, but the fact they have been denied the chance to secure honours on the pitch is very regrettable.
Now for some practical steps looking ahead :
League Dinner due in May – This is almost certain to be cancelled for the year and I have asked the league chairman to liaise with the venue.
The League AGM in June – Whether this can physically take place is up in the air, initial thoughts are that we stream line the business to the minimum and send out reports, accounts etc with a view to getting a response from each club that they are accepted. Nothing will happen in the short term though as accounts don’t finish until March 31st and then they have to be audited.
Paperwork for next season – Handbook forms, Fixture forms and player registration papers etc : These will probably be sent out electronically at the same time as the AGM reports to be returned by the end of May with players of course becoming free agents for the calendar month of June.
Finance – The league has already given some thought as to the financial situation and the officers of the league are already actively looking at ways of helping clubs, the league has reasonable reserves built up for “a rainy day” and I think we can all agree that time is now, exactly how we will help will be looked at and we will also look to push other authorities, football and wider community, to also assist in this difficult time.
Walter C Parson Cup Etc : Cup competitions are NOT specifically covered under today’s FA ruling, although none can now be played at this time due to restrictions due to covid19. County FA’s, indeed the FA with the FA Cup, Trophy & Vase, will all make their own decisions. As the Walter C Parson Cup is under the leagues control, the plan is to look to play the 4 remaining ties in July as part of pre-season. This may not be ideal in terms of teams being full strength, but the thought is that it would be the same for all sides and would allow the teams to play in the final. The plan would be for the last QF tie to be played early in July, the two semi finals in mid-July and the final at the very end of July. Devon & Cornwall FA’s will no doubt make their own decisions regarding the latter stages of their cups too.
Next season – None of us can know when we will be able to start playing again, but the current thinking and timeline is : April / May – This crisis will need time and no football will be played, June is the official close season, July – We would ask clubs if restrictions are lifted to get back to playing friendlies (& any cup ties) with a view that we restart on the first weekend of August with a schedule of Saturday / Midweek through the opening months of the season with pitches perfect, weather hopefully good and all clubs needing income to get back on their feet. Obviously these timetables will be kept under review in light of Govt. advice.
Finally for now – Can I ask that you all look to stay healthy and look after your volunteer workforce, football is NOT “more important than life & death”, so take advice, if your old or vulnerable stay safe, if you’re a keyworker then you are owed all our Thanks for your efforts!
The league and the clubs will be back, maybe not stronger in a financial sense, but the commitment of the volunteer workforce through this difficult time will ensure, health permitting, that we meet again.
Philip Hiscox (League Secretary)
MACRON DEVON & EXETER LEAGUE (which many local clubs play in)
Update on Fixtures
All matches now cancelled on websites
Following the latest guidelines from the Football Association the Devon & Exeter League have cancelled all remaining fixtures for the current season. The League have been watching the instructions issued at higher levels and after notifications that the season has been terminated have taken the same steps to bring things to a close.
Cup matches featured on the sites may be held over until the new season, but the respective competitions will inform all clubs separately on this