After 100 days away from our television screens the Premier League and Championship has restarted, with the first weekend of matches currently being played. It has seen attention now turned to non-league football and everyone is asking when will grassroots football recommence?
Here at Severn Sport Kelsey and I were like a number of players and managers around the county in being distraught that the season was suspended in March, but completely understood why it had to happen.
Obviously with a global pandemic affecting so many people throughout the United Kingdom, it was clear that social distancing and self isolation was going to be crucial in the early days in order for us to be in a position where we can watch live matches on the TV again – and not just having to rely on Premier League Years.
Over the last week or so we have seen announcements made regarding the conclusion of the 2019/20 season, with steps 3-7 of the non-league pyramid seeing their results expunged upon the suspension.
In the National League it has been confirmed that the table will now be worked out on a points-per-game basis, but with Gloucester City being safe when the suspension of the season occurred – it doesn’t really affect the county.
So, just when can we all think about a new season? The big 2020/21 season that will see teams who were denied the chance to fight for titles looking to replicate their form from last term, or the clubs who had a tough time who will now be looking to put things right.
Well on Friday lunchtime the FA and representatives of leagues in steps 5 and 6 (so for Gloucestershire sides, Southern League and Hellenic League) and the consensus is that a September start is the aim for the start of the new season.
The reason for the delay to the start is down to the FA rightly confirming that they believe the resumption of non-league football at both those levels and the National League without crowds is not a viable option and then games are being played just for playing’s sake. However there will of course be some sort of social distancing in place, so likely restricted crowds at each ground.
The FA has told Step 5 & 6 leagues that a September start to next season is the most likely scenario.— Ollie Bayliss (@Ollie_Bayliss) June 19, 2020
This afternoon leagues were told about various scenarios & plans.
The aim, which is subject to government guidance, is to start all of non-league at a similar time with crowds. pic.twitter.com/Im94ubvl3W
However, with that aim in place it begs the question of what will happen below those steps. Will the County League start as normal? Is the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League’s 1st August scheduled start still a possibility? Well for those answers it is worth looking at what the government have said.
In one of the media briefings last week it was confirmed that the beginning of re-opening leisure and sporting facilities for the public will begin “in July at the earliest” and that, for me, allows me to believe that in particular the GNSL’s 1st August start date could still happen.
The likely outcome at this stage for the County League and below in the pyramid will end up being similar to how each league dealt with the settlement of the league – whether to void the season or settle on points-per-game.
Now whilst I stress that this is merely a prediction on my part, but assessing the information given to us following the FA meeting on Friday and the government, I can see the GNSL starting in August (whether the 1st may just be too soon time will tell) and the rest of the leagues will begin to start intermittently by the end of September.
All of the above however is dependant on the R rate within the UK.
Finally, to add, it has been great to see so many teams starting up their “pre-season” training schedules and applying social distancing measures. It has given everyone involved in the local game a lift and with Elite football now back it is only a matter of time until we can all enjoy Gloucestershire Non-League Football again!