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04 Dec 2020 : Call for fair play as Covid stoppage continues

The Pitching In Northern Premier League and its two partner competitions at Steps Three and Four of the National League System have confirmed they "cannot sanction" fixtures while present Covid-19 restrictions are in place.

The three leagues have pledged to reconsider their position in line with planned reviews of tier allocations in England later this month.

But league bosses insist that the only things which will alter the stance of the Northern Premier, Southern and Isthmian leagues are a change in the tiers system and/or improved funding for their clubs.

In the meantime, the pause to the 2020-21 season, witnessed during the second national coronavirus lockdown, will continue until the first Government tiers review, on December 16th.

A full press release has this evening been issued by the three leagues, known collectively as the Trident Leagues. This follows yesterday's initial statement, reporting a majority vote by clubs in the three competitions to extend the stoppage.

The big issues are that clubs at Steps 3-6 who have been placed in Covid Tier 3 from Wednesday this week are not allowed under the latest restrictions to play home games in front of crowds and the financial support package they are being offered is unappealing because it is based largely on loans rather than grants.

It has now been revealed that 76% of Trident clubs voted in favour of the proposal not to resume and it could be into New Year before Runcorn Linnets first team is back in league action.

But we can continue our Buildbase FA Trophy campaign with the visit of Morpeth Town to The Millbank next Tuesday.

Tonight's Trident Leagues statement reads:

"Following the statement issued by the Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Football Leagues yesterday, further clarification can now be given in relation to the voting following the Zoom meetings held by all 3 Trident Leagues with their Member Clubs to discuss the impact of the raising of the lockdown on 2nd December. There were 224 Clubs voting across the 3 Leagues and of these 172 agreed with the proposition to continue the pause in fixtures, 51 disagreed and there was 1 abstention. Broken down by League, 57 Clubs in the Northern Premier League voted to agree with 4 disagreeing, 68 Clubs in the Southern League agreed with 14 disagreeing and in the Isthmian League it was much closer with 47 Clubs agreeing, 33 disagreeing and 1 abstention.

The "Agree" vote was therefore 76% and it has been agreed that the three Leagues will not sanction fixtures at this time.

It is intended that the situation is kept under review in line with Government review on the Tier allocations and restrictions. Accordingly, the next review is set for 16 December and then 30 December. It is the hope of all the Leagues that a date in January can be set for a return to fixtures with Clubs who wish being allowed to play before that date but this will not be until there is a change in the Tiers and/or some progress in the funding of the Clubs at this level.

The Government has allocated 25m to Sport England to fund Steps 1 to 6 of the National Leagues System, of which 14m is set for Steps 3-6 but is heavily weighted in favour of loans, not grants. The FA is working tirelessly with DCMS and Sport England to have the funding presented as Grants. However, these negotiations take time, and it is not expected to have an answer or clarification of details of even the loans until mid-January.

The deep concern of all involved in the NLS is that circumstances may mean that it is not possible to conclude the current format of competition in a manner in which promotion and relegation can be achieved throughout the whole pyramid with Step 2 being brought up to 48 Clubs and Step 4 brought up to 240 Clubs.

If, therefore, no progress is made by the Government on the Tiers in either of the two December reviews, it is the intention of the Alliance Committee to circulate those concerned with a survey to gather the views of the Clubs as how best to finish the season. Options will include an alternative format competition and extending the season possibly into June 2021. However the implications of all such proposals will involve the cost of players contracts and the ability of some clubs to continue playing because of other issues of grounds and the need to prepare grass pitches for the following season.

The Leagues are mindful of the needs of all Clubs and are striving to find a solution which is fair to all."

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