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Northern Premier League explains decision to break ranks and play on

Northern Premier League Non-League

The Northern Premier League has issued a statement explaining the competition’s decision to break ranks with the Southern League and Isthmian League and not suspend their campaign.

The three BetVictor sponsored competitions had been taking a joint approach to the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak since meeting with the Football Association and other competitions in the National League System on Wednesday.

The Vanarama National League also announced its fixture programme would go ahead at lunchtime on Friday after the Premier League and English Football League both suspended their matches until April 3.

The Northern League and Northern Counties East Football League became the latest Step 5 competitions to temporarily call a halt to their seasons on Friday afternoon as sporting events in the UK and globally continued to be decimated by the unfolding crisis, rugby’s Six Nations the highest profile European casualty outside football.

Read The Non-League Paper on Sunday for the latest news on the coronavirus and its growing impact on clubs and competitions.

The NPL statement read: “The NPL board has decided that all games will go ahead this weekend. Further to our communication of yesterday regarding the Coronavirus crisis, and following the Premier League and EFL deciding to pause the season until April 9th, the NPL has today been in discussion with the National, Southern and Isthmian Leagues to try and agree a common approach, but this did not prove possible.

“The FA has today stated that it is each League’s decision as to what approach it wishes to take, so each league at Steps 3 & 4 will do what it believes best for its member clubs. Accordingly, and in common with the National League, the NPL’s board has decided that all matches will go ahead this weekend, with future fixtures being reviewed on Monday 16th March.

“Our primary concern, as always, is to protect the financial stability of our 62 clubs. This means playing as many games as we can, so long as clubs wish to do so. This is not contrary to the League’s and clubs’ duty of care considerations to players, officials or supporters but, in a season where clubs have been severely impacted by weather-related postponements, the NPL board believes that pausing the season right now would prove disastrous for many clubs.

“The situation is changing daily, so our approach to Covid-19 must be flexible, recognising the very genuine concerns around the health of players, officials and supporters. The NPL has consistently urged clubs to follow government advice, which is that football matches should go ahead as planned for now.

“Having carefully weighed up all options, and mindful that we are between a rock and a hard place on this issue, all NPL matches will therefore go ahead as planned this weekend unless a club is directly affected by players, referees or volunteers who are self-isolating or have serious concerns. Clubs have been issued with further guidance and instruction.

“The NPL acknowledges this is not a decision that will meet with universal approval. Although our current stance may have to be reviewed as events escalate, it will be business as usual for as long as possible.”

Massive impact

Non-League’s senior competitions were weighing up suspending their campaigns on Friday as the spread of coronavirus saw all elite football in the UK suspended until  3 April.

All Premier League games, EFL fixtures and matches in the FA Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship were postponed for at least the next three weeks on Friday morning.

The remainder of the Scottish football season was also postponed indefinitely on Friday morning over fears around fans helping to spread the virus.

Uefa also confirmed they were calling off all their competitions with next week’s Champions League and Europa League matches all postponed.

Make sure you get your copy of The Non-League Paper on a Sunday for the latest news and action from across Non-League over the last seven days.

As well as exclusive match reports and pictures from all of Saturday’s fixtures in the Vanarama National League and the BetVictor-sponsored Northern Premier League, The Non-League Paper’s live coverage extends all the way to Steps 5 and 6.

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