Steps 3-6 of non-league football scrapped again after 76 per cent of clubs vote for null and void

The Southern League and Wessex Leagues have been null and voided for the second season running.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 6:43 pm
US Portsmouth could still be promoted to the top flight of Wessex League football after the FA said they will 'revisit' plans to restructure the non-league game. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

The FA confirmed what everyone involved in the non-league game must have been expecting in a statement at 6.30pm tonight.

But one bit of good news for some clubs is that the governing body have said they will ‘revisit discussions around a potential restructure at Steps 4-6 of the NLS, which was previously agreed and has been on hold since the 2019-20 season.’

That could yet mean that clubs with the best points-per-games records over the last two seasons could be invited to apply for promotion.

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An FA statement said: ‘Our alliance and leagues committees have now considered the large amount of data and information submitted by clubs across the National League System (NLS) Steps 3-6 as part of a survey to gather views on the continuation or conclusion of the 2020-21 league season, in addition to the information set out in the Government’s roadmap this week.

‘Submissions were made by 99.1 per cent of clubs at Steps 3 and 4, and 95.8 per cent of clubs at Steps 5 and 6. We would like to thank the clubs for submitting their views and the time taken in providing responses during what we appreciate is an incredibly challenging period for everyone.

‘The results of the survey showed that over 76 per cent of all clubs across Steps 3-6 indicated a preference to curtail the 2020-21 league season if it could not be restarted with limited spectator numbers and hospitality before 1 April 2021.

‘During this process, taking into account views of clubs and leagues, it was decided that extending the 2020-21 league season beyond the end of May 2021 would not be a viable option.

‘This was due to various considerations, including the financial implications for many clubs, player contracts and the extent of the fixture scheduling issues caused by the national lockdown and various postponements which had resulted in there being 81 per cent of matches left to complete for Steps 3 and 4, and 75 per cent at Steps 5 and 6.

‘Taking into account the survey results and the ongoing impact of Covid-19, which continues to adversely affect incomes for clubs due to restrictions on both spectators and hospitality, our alliance and leagues committees have reached a consensus that, subject to the approval of FA Council, the 2020-21 league season for Steps 3-6 of the NLS should be curtailed with immediate effect, with no further league matches taking place this season.

‘The committees will now present their collective recommendations to the FA Council for ratification.

‘It has also been decided that, subject to FA Council’s decision regarding the curtailment of the season at Steps 3 to 6, both committees will revisit discussions around a potential restructure at Steps 4-6 of the NLS, which was previously agreed and has been on hold since the 2019-20 season. A further update on this will be provided in due course.’

A second successive null and void is no surprise, given how few games some clubs in the pyramid have played this season. Moneyfields, for example, have only played four of their scheduled 38 Southern League Division 1 South games.

Gosport have only played seven Southern Premier League matches, while in the Wessex League none of the 39 clubs have managed to complete even 50 per cent of their fixtures.