Article supplied by The Non-League Paper
So, here we go again! The 2021-22 season is almost upon us – for some it’s already underway.
Most of Step 5 and 6 started from July 31 – July! – while this weekend (August 7) the FA Cup gets started with the Extra Preliminary Round, only nine months before the final on May 14.
For many, competitive football makes a welcome return after an enforced break from the game due to the pandemic.
At NLP HQ we have everything crossed for a ‘normal’ season, Covid has taken its toll on us too, but we’d like to thank our loyal readers for helping us to keep producing the paper every Sunday. We’ve not missed one weekend since the pandemic began or indeed for the last 21 years!
The previous 18 months in Non-League has been tough to say the least for all involved. The 2019-20 and the 2020-21 seasons proved fruitless for many although the FA’s restructure did at least provide some upward movement for clubs at Steps 4-6.
Step 3 can rightly feel hard done by having been stagnant throughout this time.
It’s why the FA’s Alliance Committee has been formulating contingency plans, with the feedback of clubs, to try and prevent any more ‘null and void’ seasons.
There are three approaches to the contingency plans:
Approach 1 – if the season successfully starts between August 14, 2021 and October 31, 2021, but it becomes clear that a division cannot complete 100 per cent of its fixtures, league tables would still be finalised providing the division has completed at least 75 per cent of its fixtures. Final league standings would be determined by using unweighted points per game and promotion and relegation would take place based on those standings.
Approach 2 – if the 2021-22 season cannot commence on or before October 31, an alternate competition would be implemented, with several potential formats under consideration determining promotion and relegation.
Approach 3 – if there is insufficient time for the regular season to achieve 75 per cent of fixtures, or an alternate competition to be completed, a supplementary competition would utilise results from completed fixtures in the 2021-22 season to avoid clubs playing opponents more than twice and ensure there is sufficient data to determine league standings.
The objective is to ensure promotion/relegation but, of course, this cannot be guaranteed. Who knows which way the pandemic will turn next. Such was the extent of the disruption last season, any number of contingency plans wouldn’t have prevented the curtailment of Steps 3-6.
Hopefully, these plans will never see the light of day, but at least they are there if needed.
Eventually, we will have all stopped talking about Covid! Until then, we wish you a safe return to football and a successful season following your team. One thing is for sure, win or lose, we must cherish standing on the terraces at 3pm on a Saturday!
Contact The NLP: NLP@greenwayspublishing.co.uk