The Isthmian League and Southern League have revealed their coronavirus contingency planning for the new Non-League season in statements laying out six possible scenarios for combating restrictions.
The Northern Premier League are expected to follow suit and endorse the ‘Project restart’ statement which was released on Monday to help clubs forward plan with fans currently barred by a blanket ban.
All three Step 3 and 4 competitions are working towards a Saturday 19 September start and insist playing games behind closed doors is not financially viable.
The three leagues are pressing the FA and Government for answers and action and made the proposed roadmap public as the #LetFansIn campaign continued to gather momentum on social media and in The Non-League Paper over the weekend.
— The Isthmian League (@IsthmianLeague) August 17, 2020
Southern League vice-chairman and FA representative Anthony Hughes said: “I am writing to update you in light of the continuing lack of clarity around when paying fans can be admitted to National League System stadiums once again.
“Since June, the FA has submitted three proposals have been submitted to DCMS for the safe return of fans; FA representatives met with DCMS as recently as last week. 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 Alliance Leagues’ stance is still that playing games behind closed doors is not financially viable.
“The Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern leagues are committed to starting the 2020/21 season on 19th September, providing government allows our clubs to admit spectators. However, we recognise that factors beyond our – or your – control may mean this date is not achievable.”
“To help clubs to forward plan, although our primary objective is to start the Step 3 & 4 playing season on 19th September, contingencies are set out as follows for your information.”
Proposed Roadmap (subject to change)
Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 19th September, finishes 8th May with Play-Offs the following week. Deadline for decision – Friday 21st August.
If it is not possible to start on 19th September, 26th September is FA Trophy so…
Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 3rd October, finishes 15th May with Play-Offs the following week. Deadline for decision – Friday 4th September.
If it is not possible to start on 3rd October…
Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 10th October, finishing 15th May. No Play-Offs: top two clubs promoted. Deadline for decision – Friday 11th September.
If it is not possible to start on 10th October…
Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 17th October, finishing 15th May. No Play-Offs: top two clubs promoted. Deadline for decision – Friday 18th September.
If it is not possible to start on 17th October…
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.
If it is not possible to start until January 2021, The Alliance Committee will determine if and how the season will be played out following consultation with the member clubs of the Northern Premier League, Southern Football League and the Isthmian League by the Leagues.
Any decision of the Alliance Committee and subsequent changes to the NLS Regulations and Standardised Rules will require the approval of FA Council.
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