Football below Conference North/South level has been prohibited since the new year under the latest Government Covid-19 lockdown, causing the abandonment of leagues. Even the sixth-tier Conference North and South campaign has been voided, with clubs arguing it was not viable without the financial support of fans in stadia, or Government loans.
It is the second consecutive season “non-elite” football has had to abandon because of the pandemic.
But Northern Premier League, North Counties East and North West Counties League clubs Brighouse Town, Golcar United, Emley, Ossett United, Penistone Church, Thackley, Steeton, Silsden, Liversedge, Garforth Town, Campion and Eccleshill United have announced they will play a tournament from April 13 until May 29 subject to fans being allowed to attend, and the clubs being able to provide refreshments.
The sides will be split into two groups of six playing one another home and away before the top two in each go into a two-legged semi-final, then a final to decide the winners.
The country is due to enter the next stage of the Government's “roadmap” no earlier than April 12, with the opening of “most outdoor attractions” and “outdoor hospitality venues”. Hospitality venues are due to be allowed to serve customers outdoors with no requirement to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks.
In mid-December, the Government allowed non-elite clubs to open their grounds to 15 per cent capacity, even in areas where their professional neighbours were being forced to play behind closed doors, but it proved short-lived with the restrictions introduced in early January shutting down matches altogether.
The clubs plan to hold three online Twitter polls to decide the name of the competition with fans asked to choose from a range of options.
York City are one of a number of sixth-tier clubs who have proposed a post-season competition at their level, with the carrot of promotion to the Conference on offer. The National League, which administers the Conference Premier, North and South, is consulting on the matter.
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