SUBJECT to FA ratification, the 2019/20 season for leagues at Step Three to Seven on the non-league ladder will be declared null and void.
All non-league football had been initially put on hold until 3rd April due to the Covid-19 situation, but with the Government imposing stricter measures to keep people at home, starting fixtures after that date is virtually impossible.
On Tuesday, the Southern, Northern and Isthmian leagues – who have divisions at Step Three and Four on the non-league ladder – had expressed their desire to postpone the season with immediate effect because their clubs “do not have the financial resources to continue to honour player contracts indefinitely”.
The three leagues then started the process to “terminate the season”, meaning all that would be left to settle was if the table was finalised by points-per-game or if the season was declared null and void.
It has now been announced that the FA and all leagues at Step Three to Six on the non-league ladder had “reached a consensus” for the 2019/20 campaign to be ended with immediate effect and that all results would be expunged.
This decision would also impact all the leagues at Step Seven.
A statement on the Southern League website reads: “This will mean that there will be no promotion or relegation of clubs between Steps Three to Six, or relegation from Step Two.
“In light of the above, these decisions will also apply to to the leagues and clubs at Step Seven of the National League System.
“The FA will continue to assist and support the National League (Steps One and Two of the NLS) to determine the outcome of the 2019/20 season.
“Consideration was given as to whether the season could be extended indefinitely, or to some later date in the future in order for it to be completed.
“However, given the current uncertainty regarding when it will be possible to resume competitive football in England, and the fact that many clubs and contracted players want certainty over when football will resume, this option is likely to present great difficulties for football between Steps Three to Six.
“On the basis that the season is ended now, consideration was given as to whether a mechanism should be used to calculate final league tables and preserve promotion and relegation between Steps Three to Six.
“Whilst inevitably some clubs will favour this option and the merits of this option have been fully considered by the FA and the leagues, it has been decided that this is not the best option to serve the particular needs of Steps Three to Six of the NLS.
“The planned implementation of the restructure of the NLS will be deferred until the start of the 2021/22 season.
“The decisions reached by the NLS leagues will be recommended to the FA Board and FA Council for final ratification.”
For Stratford Town, who were in the midst of a relegation battle in the Southern Premier Central, the news means their status as a Step Three club remains for a further season.
More on this news in next week’s Herald.