Football Association aim to complete all seasons despite grassroots football being mothballed in covid lockdown
The decision will also apply to tiers three to seven of the women's football pyramid (WFP).
An exception has been made for the ten “non-elite” clubs competing in the FA Cup, which will allow Harrogate Town and Doncaster Rovers' televised first round ties at the weekend to go ahead, but other than that, grassroots football will effectively be mothballed until December 2.
School sport will also be allowed to continue.
In a statement, the FA said its “aim is to ensure that the 2020-21 season is completed at these levels and will liaise with the relevant leagues in the NLS (National League System) and WFP and the County Football Associations (CFAs) to provide support and establish appropriate options to do so if required.”
“Non-elite” football was unable to resume after the last lockdown, in the spring, even for promotion play-offs, causing all those leagues to be declared null and void. Conference North York City had to argue for the definition of “elite” to be extended beyond the Conference Premier so they could take part in play-offs, which they lost in. York are a full-time football club in an almost exclusively part-time division.
Many football clubs below the Premier League already have games to make up because of postponements due to squads being put into self-isolation by positive covid-19 tests.
Under the exemption, “non-elite” clubs playing in the FA Cup are not allowed to train beyond Wednesday. North West Counties League side Skelmersdale United are at Harrogate for a game which will be shown live on BT Sport on Friday night, whilst Northern Premier League side FC United of Manchester host Doncaster at 5.30pm on Saturday on BBC Two.
The clubs will receive £32,500 for taking part in live televised games, and more than £22,000 is available in prize money.
What will happen if any of the ten teams pull off a shock and reach the second round, which is scheduled for the final weekend of November, is unclear.
Updates on dates for this season's Youth Cup, FA Trophy, Vase and Women's FA Cup have been promised in due course.
“The FA remains in dialogue with the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), leagues, competitions and CFAs and will provide further clarification for ‘non-elite’ football in England following the debate in the House of Commons tomorrow (Wednesday).”
The lockdown is subject to a vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday but although some Conservative MPs have threatened to vote against, there is no expectation that the measures will not pass, with Labour having advocated a national lockdown for a fortnight.
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