Non-league will only come back with supporters

Steps 1 to 7 of the non-League pyramid will start next season at the same time

The FA are making plans for what they hope will be a September start to next season
The FA are making plans for what they hope will be a September start to next season

The 2020-21 season for senior non-League clubs in Northamptonshire won’t start until supporters are allowed back into grounds.

The United Counties League were one of 17 at Steps 5 and 6 who were invited to a virtual meeting with the Football Association late last week.

Leagues were told that the next campaign cannot start at any of the top seven levels of the non-league pyramid until it is safe for spectators to attend.

In addition, all steps are tied together on a restart date, which means that Kettering Town’s National League North season will begin at the same time as the Southern League, which contains AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Corby Town, and the United Counties League.

Football below those levels, including the Northants Combination, where no admission is taken, may start on a different date and is subject to specific grassroots government guidance.

The FA are working on various scenarios as to when the 2020-21 starts and how it affects the programme of games.

These are: August – a normal season, September/October – full league seasons to be priority with no league or county cups, November/January – not possible for a full league season to be played and in this situation either half seasons (play each other once) or splitting divisions in half (probably on geography) and later than January – the worst case scenario with restructure and leagues maybe held over again until the 2021-22 season.

Whilst not a guarantee, the FA said the most likely current scenario at present is a September start date.

Leagues were also told that the FA’s current ambition is to run the FA Cup and FA Vase in full in 2020/21, but that is not guaranteed.

The governing body are contractually obliged to run the FA Cup third round on the first weekend of January, so the number of earlier rounds could be affected.

Whatever happens, FA Vase prize money will be reduced by approximately six per cent.

Leagues were also told that replays in both FA Cup and FA Vase could be scrapped.

The FA said a pre-season would occur before league matches began, but did not tell Step 5 and 6 leagues what duration in weeks that would be.

The FA are facing a £300m shortfall in income over the next four years.

As a result, the National Game System (Steps 1-7) budget has been cut by £22m in 2020/21-38 per cent of its allocation.