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Football clubs at steps five and six told a September start to season is 'the most likely scenario'

Clubs at steps five and six of the non league pyramid have been told that a September start to next season is being planned for by the FA and is also the ‘most likely scenario’ for a return of competitive football.

Last week clubs at these levels were told about the FA’s various scenarios for the return of football, with the aim is to start most leagues at a similar time and with crowds.

The FA believes that matches at non leagues step 1 to seven, which encompasses the National League, cannot realistically restart without paying spectators, something which Maidenhead United chairman Peter Griffin suggested last week.

A September start date has at this stage been pencilled in and is by no means a commitment or a guarantee. The FA and leagues will also continue to be abide by government guidance on COVID-19 and restart plans will be put at risk by a rise in the country’s infection rate or a second wave of the virus.

Several ideas were floated at the meeting to contend with the season starting late or having to be shortened. Clubs might have to play home or away once, decided by a draw, or leagues could be split into geographical divisions, or maybe split based on a draw.

The FA has said that a pre-season will take place before the commencement of league matches, but they were not prepared to say what duration that might be. There is also flexibility for the non league seasons to go into May, rather than being concluded by the final weekend of August. Again this would depend on the start date for the season.

All clubs will need to produce and publish a risk assessment and action plan to ensure they are COVID-19 secure before the new season kicks off. This will include things such as ‘return to training/matches, use of facilities including clubhouses and dressing rooms, travel, voluntary staff.

Clubs may also enter into a prior agreement on how the season would be ended if a second spike in COVID-19 leads to matches being cancelled once again, whether that be null and void or a points-per-game calculation to determine places.

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