Non-League football and a possible return date - latest news

PUBLISHED: 10:13 20 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:13 20 June 2020


Non-League football teams will be pleased to hear that there is a very real possibility of the game being restarted in league format from September.

The news comes following an online meeting held on Friday (June 19) between the Football Association and both the Step Five and Step Six League clubs.

However, as positive as that news is, the meeting also advised that the funding that clubs receive via the FA Cup and FA Vase, will be reduced for the coming campaign.

As a result of the meeting, the FA have put together four scenarios for the start of next season.

Scenario one is for a ‘normal season’ with the now customary August start with all would see an August start with a normal season to be played, with all leagues and cups being played in full.

The second scenario, which the FA currently sees as the most likely option, would see the season begin in either September or October and would ensure all leagues would be played in full, but League and County cups would not run.

The third scenario is for the 2020/21 season to be started on a date between November and January, and, if that were to be the case, then it would involve either the playing of half ma regular season – each team plays each other once or splitting the divisions in half to create two regional sub-divisions.

There is also a fourth scenario and that one concerns a post-January (2021) start in which case league football, as we know it, would not happen until the 2021/22 season.

According to the South West Peninsula League, the FA stated in the meeting that the most likely current scenario would be a September start, although this was by no means guaranteed.

While the start date is still up in the air, it was confirmed that all steps (one to seven) of the pyramid must begin at the same time, and games behind closed doors will not be permitted.

The FA stated that competitions in the NLS will only restart when the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport gives approval and is subject to any conditions that the DCMS makes.

With regards to FA competitions, the FA still intends to run the FA Cup and FA Vase in full, but again, this is all subject to when the leagues can once again be started.

Whichever of the four scenarios takes place, there will be a ‘pre-season’ period ahead of the start of league action. However, as things currently stand, the FA is not yet prepared to say what duration in weeks that time frame would be.

The FA also offered flexibility with regards to the normal end of April deadline to finish the non-league season, which can be extended into May.

One key aspect, regardless of whichever scenario is adopted, is that the FA will require all clubs at any level of the game to produce and publish a risk assessment and/or action plans to ensure they are Covid secure.

This risk assessment will cover a return to full training and matches, the use of facilities including clubhouses and dressing rooms, travel to and from training and matches, and the volunteer workforce at each club.

A contingency plan should next season also be curtailed due to a second wave of coronavirus was also discussed, with a move for leagues to be decided by points per game mooted, although no decision was made.

The next FA meeting will be on July 14.

In terms of East Devon-based clubs. Exmouth Town play at Step Five in the Toolstation Western League while, at Step Six, Axminster Town, Sidmouth Town and Honiton Town all play in the South West Peninsula League, Premier East.

At Step Seven are both the Devon League North & East (Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth Town Reserves and Topsham Tow) and the Devon League South & West (Ottery St Mary).

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