The Northern Premier League board met last night (Friday) to review its initial decision to re-start the 2020/21 season from December 26.
The principal issue raised by clubs was that, as a result of the original decision, clubs were effectively being forced to stage competitive fixtures at a financial loss.
The decision to re-commence competitive fixtures was based on a call back on December 1, where it was discussed with clubs the prevailing circumstances and at what point clubs felt a re-start would be possible.
One of the key points of consensus then was “that a re-start would be possible once clubs in Tier 3 are allowed paying spectators”.
Since the recent vote of 57-4 in favour of a continued, temporary suspension, paying fans have been allowed back in to step 3/4 games in Tier 3 venues, albeit at Phase 1 levels. The NPL is working, via the FA, to put pressure on DCMS to return to Phase 2 levels.
The league recognises the impact of lost secondary revenue from clubhouses etc. As part of our lobbying of government we continue to press for clubs to be able to open their bars. However, with so many pubs and restaurants closed we have to be realistic. Government simply won’t budge on this point.
Whilst the league board has every sympathy with clubs experiencing financial difficulties, its primary responsibility lies with the competition as a whole. Clubs have shown great ingenuity in generating revenues, even during the temporary suspension of competitive fixtures.
The league board’s decision to re-start the season on 26th December was unanimous, although the board recognised that re-starting would be challenging for all. The league is also highly conscious of the unacceptable position that exists whereby Steps 1 and 2 of the NLS receive government funding and we, at Steps 3 & 4 may only be been offered loans which few clubs would wish to take up. Once again, the league is pressing for these decisions to be reviewed, but this will take time.
The NPL wants to avoid, if possible, a second consecutive season being declared null and void. Clubs should therefore bear in mind that any further fixture suspensions could increase this risk.
It has, therefore, been decided that playing league fixtures on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day will now be optional.
Clubs who wish to continue with fixtures arranged for the 22/26/28/29-Dec and 01/02-Jan have the option to play those matches where both clubs are in agreement.
Northern Premier League clubs have all been issued with full details prior to this release.
We will be making announcement regarding our own festive fixtures as soon as we have information to share.