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The FA Council ratifies decision to cancel their season despite numerous clubs challenging the move

6 months ago
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The FA provoked a revolt by clubs after releasing a statement of intent on 26 March 2020 (see below).

For Newcastle fans it was positive news two weeks ago as The FA declared, regarding the FA Cup, that they were ‘reviewing all options as we seek to complete these competitions whenever it is safe and appropriate to do so’, the statement saying that a major factor is that being at the quarter-final stage, there are very few games left to play.

However, for non-league clubs and women’s football it was mixed news,  The FA saying a solution was still being sought as to how to determine the outcome of the 2019-20 season as quickly as possible for the National League, National League North and National League South, as well as the top two tiers of women’s football.

However, all leagues below those top three men’s non-league divisions and below the top two women’s leagues, are having their results ‘expunged’, so basically as though this season never happened.

Not surprisingly, a lot of non-league clubs were far from happy with this and organised to try and stop this plan going ahead.

Amongst them were South Shields, 12 points clear at the top of the Northern Premier League with only nine games left to play.

Some other clubs had even more reason to be upset if the plan to cancel this season and expunge the results went ahead. For example, both Jersey Bulls and Vauxhall Motors had already won promotion to step five from their respective leagues due to the points accumulated before football was suspended.

The FA plan was to go ahead and wipe out this season, with no promotion or relegation, even where promotion and/or relegation had already been decided by results.

There was a glimmer of hope for disgruntled clubs as the decision still had to be ratified by the FA council, who were meeting today (Thursday 9 April).

This afternoon The FA have released a short statement (see below) giving the final decision, The FA Council having voted today ‘overwhelmingly’ to ratify the decision.

The FA Statement – 9 April 2020:

‘The FA Council has today ratified the decision to conclude the 2019-20 season across Steps 3-7 of the National League System, Tiers 3 to 7 of the women’s football pyramid and the wider grassroots game.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been working collaboratively with the leagues within the National League System, the Women’s Football Board, the Women’s Football Conference and the wider grassroots game to identify the most appropriate way to conclude the 2019-20 season at each level.

The request to end the 2019-20 season was taken to the FA Council by the representatives of the relevant committees having been fully supported by the FA Board.

The FA Council’s vote today was overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying the decision.’

The FA Statement – 26 March 2020:

We have been working collaboratively with the National League System (NLS), the women’s football pyramid and the wider grassroots game since the outbreak of COVID-19 on how to conclude the 2019-20 season in the most appropriate way possible.

These are challenging circumstances for English football and all decisions taken are in the best interests of the game and in consultation across key stakeholders. Our primary concern will always be for the safety and welfare of clubs, players, staff, officials, volunteers and supporters during this unprecedented time.

Today’s steps take into account the financial impact during this uncertain period, whilst considering the fairest method on how the sporting outcomes for the season will be decided with the integrity of the leagues in mind.

National League System

The NLS and the women’s football pyramid were able to build a consensus amongst their leagues and, where possible, aimed to create a consistent approach across all leagues, whilst taking into account the unique characteristics of each individual league.

As a result, The FA and NLS steps three to six have reached a consensus that their 2019-20 season will now be brought to an end, and all results will be expunged. This will mean no promotion or relegation of clubs between NLS steps three to six, and no promotion to NLS step two.

These decisions will also apply to the leagues and clubs who play at NLS step seven.

We will continue to assist and support the National League (NLS steps one and two) to determine the outcome of its 2019-20 season as quickly as possible. The planned implementation of the restructure of the NLS will also now be deferred until the start of the 2021-22 season.

Furthermore, we can now confirm that we have decided that all grassroots football is concluded for the 2019-20 season. This will allow the game to move forward and to commence planning for next season. Our County Football Associations (CFAs) will be supporting grassroots leagues over the coming days to determine how they should close out their current competitions.

Where appropriate, the above decisions will be put to The FA Council for ratification.

Throughout this period we continue to seek guidance in respect of the government’s financial support packages relative to COVID-19 and how they are applicable to clubs in the NLS, the women’s football pyramid and the wider grassroots game.

Women’s football

The FA, FA Women’s Board members and the Women’s Football Conference have consulted and reached a consensus regarding the women’s football pyramid.

The FA and the leagues within tiers three to seven have reached a consensus to bring the season to an immediate end and all results will be expunged. This will mean no promotion or relegation of clubs between tiers three to seven. Agreement has also been reached to end the Regional Talent Clubs season, which was due to conclude in April 2020.

We remain in consultation with the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship Board and clubs regarding the most appropriate way to complete the current season, including for the Barclays FA Women’s Super League Academy.

FA competitions

With the 2019-20 Emirates FA Cup, Women’s FA Cup, Buildbase FA Trophy and Buildbase FA Vase all at advanced stages, we are reviewing all options as we seek to complete these competitions whenever it is safe and appropriate to do so. Clubs involved are close to reaching a major final and for those clubs and supporters we will do all we can to keep the Wembley dream alive.

In respect of The FA Youth Cup, The FA County Youth Cup, The FA Sunday Cup and The FA Inter-League Cup, we are also seeking to complete these competitions if it is feasible to do so.

We will also continue planning for FA competitions to take place for the 2020-21 season.’

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