24 Feb 2021 in News
The Football Association have announced that the 2020-21 season at Steps 3-6 of the National League System will be ended with immediate effect, subject to ratification from the FA Council.
More than three-quarters of teams at Steps 3-6 of the NLS chose to end the season in a survey if matches could not be played with supporters before April.
A new roadmap released by the government this week to ease Covid-19 restrictions states that sporting events in England will not have spectators attend before mid-May and hospitality offerings - an important source of secondary spend at non-league clubs - also delayed until then.
Last season's results were controversially declared null and void at the beginning of the global pandemic in March. Leagues did restart with the new campaign in September but have been hit by postponements since two further nationwide lockdowns to try to control the health emergency, with many teams not playing a league game since November.
The FA added that extending the leagues beyond May was deemed not to be a viable option as 81% of matches were still to be played in Steps 3 and 4 and 75% at Steps 5 and 6, which includes the Northern Football League's two divisions.
English football's governing body also confirmed discussions about a potential restructure at Steps 4-6 of the NLS - on hold since the 2019-20 season - could be revisited.
Full statement from the FA:
Our Alliance and Leagues Committees have now considered the large amount of data and information submitted by clubs across the National League System (NLS) Steps 3-6 as part of a survey to gather views on the continuation or conclusion of the 2020-21 league season, in addition to the information set out in the Government’s roadmap this week.
Submissions were made by 99.1 per cent of clubs at Steps 3 and 4, and 95.8 per cent of clubs at Steps 5 and 6. We would like to thank the clubs for submitting their views and the time taken in providing responses during what we appreciate is an incredibly challenging period for everyone.
The results of the survey showed that over 76 per cent of all clubs across Steps 3-6 indicated a preference to curtail the 2020-21 league season if it could not be restarted with limited spectator numbers and hospitality before 1 April 2021.
During this process, taking into account views of clubs and leagues, it was decided that extending the 2020-21 league season beyond the end of May 2021 would not be a viable option. This was due to various considerations, including the financial implications for many clubs, player contracts and the extent of the fixture scheduling issues caused by the national lockdown and various postponements which had resulted in there being 81 per cent of matches left to complete for Steps 3 and 4, and 75 per cent at Steps 5 and 6.
Taking into account the survey results and the ongoing impact of Covid-19, which continues to adversely affect incomes for clubs due to restrictions on both spectators and hospitality, our Alliance and Leagues Committees have reached a consensus that, subject to the approval of FA Council, the 2020-21 league season for Steps 3-6 of the NLS should be curtailed with immediate effect, with no further league matches taking place this season.
The Committees will now present their collective recommendations to the FA Council for ratification.
It has also been decided that, subject to FA Council’s decision regarding the curtailment of the season at Steps 3 to 6, both Committees will revisit discussions around a potential restructure at Steps 4-6 of the NLS, which was previously agreed and has been on hold since the 2019-20 season. A further update on this will be provided in due course.