Various English club’s from steps three (the Betvictor divisions) to six (the county leagues) of the non-league footballing pyramid have hit out at the Football Association’s (FA) decision to ‘null and void’ the 2019/20 season.
The FA’s decision was in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic that is currently affecting the globe worldwide. However, 66 non-league clubs including the likes of Hashtag United and South Shields FC, a side positioned 12 points clear at the summit of the Betvictor Northern Premier League (step 3) at the time of the FA’s decision, have since criticised the decision that will see them miss out on promotion.
The joint letter to the FA stated: “We are writing to express our profound concern and displeasure regarding the decision to null and void entirely the 2019/20 playing season from steps three to six of the non-league, as well as tiers three to seven of the women’s non-league.
“Our concern is grounded primarily in the needless and inexplicable haste exercised in reaching the decision, coupled with a total lack of substantive dialogue or consultation with affected clubs. The decision also disregards the millions of pounds invested and countless hours expended collectively by clubs, and so has critical financial implications.”
The letter went on to mention that the FA had failed to properly inform the Non-League System’s (NLS) leagues and clubs from steps three to six, despite the federation stating that it did so in the prior statement.
Moreover, It has also been claimed that step seven of the non-league pyramid, which has also been affected by the FA’s rulings, had not been informed of the federation’s decision at all prior to the decision.
The letter continued: “Affected clubs were eager to open an official consultation process with their respective leagues and the FA, to work on an agreed and constructive outcome. Many leagues across the country assert that no vote had been put to them by the FA, and that leagues at steps five to six in particular felt the decision had already been made by the time they had been consulted, rendering the ‘consultation’ process insignificant.
“Many clubs were never given an opportunity to vote, only to suggest possible conclusions to league officials. There appears to have been little-to-no attempt to consult deeply and widely and so formulate a clearer idea of what any ‘consensus’ amongst clubs might be.”
The clubs do agree that the season should be suspended until the coronavirus crisis is dealt with. However, the sides feel that completely disregarding the season all together is ‘incomprehensible’ considering that some sides like Jersey Bulls FC and Vauxhall Motors FC have already mathematically secured promotion this season.
The letter concluded: “A crisis like this is a watershed moment for the FA and the relationship it chooses to have with non-league and grassroots football. It is imperative to solve this issue sensibly and democratically over the coming weeks, with transparent, constructive and fair dialogue with respective leagues and clubs. The alternative which would certainly not reflect well on the FA, is forcing clubs to embark on potential legal recourse, which is wholly unnecessary and financially burdening to clubs.
“We urge the FA to reconsider its decision and to slow down the whole process, offering proper consultation with afflicted leagues and clubs as the picture becomes clearer, before deciding a way forward. We stand ready to play our full part to help achieve a fair outcome, allowing the integrity of England’s football pyramid to be upheld in such a period of national adversity.”
It is uncertain whether this statement will cause the FA to change its direction. Nevertheless, it undoubtedly shows the fractured relationship which has been caused by the federation’s decision.
For the full statement and a list of all the side’s involved with the letter, follow the link here.