Isthmian League won't start on September 19 - unless clubs get green light by this Friday for fans' admission

Isthmian League chairman Nick Robinson has written to all of the league's clubs to map out when the league will begin - and it depends wholly on when the government gives the go-ahead to fans to watch matches.

Monday, 17th August 2020, 8:43 pm
Updated Monday, 17th August 2020, 8:48 pm
Horsham and Bognor are among clubs waiting to see when the Isthmian League can begin / Picture: Tommy McMillan

And he has warned that if the issue of no fans being allowed in drags on, the whole make-up of the season will have to change - with smaller and more regionalised divisions being organised and new-look rules and systems for promotion and relegation.

In his letter, Robinson explains that the FA have made a number of proposals to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, and that these have been well received, but that the final decisions about our big kick off will need to come from central government. Dependent on when those decisions are made, there are up to six possible scenarios, which follow, in Robinson's words...

Scenario One: Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 19th September, finishes 8th May with Play-Offs the following week. Deadline for decision – Friday 21st August.

If it is not possible to start on 19th September, 26th September is FA Trophy, so… Scenario 2 - Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 3rd October, finishes 15th May with Play-Offs the following week. Deadline for decision – Friday 4th September.

If it is not possible to start on 3rd October… Scenario 3 - Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 10th October, finishing 15th May. No Play-Offs: top two clubs promoted. Deadline for decision – Friday 11th September.

Scenario 4 - Steps 3 & 4 season starts on 17th October, finishing 15th May. No Play-Offs: top two clubs promoted. Deadline for decision – Friday 18th September.

If it is not possible to start on 17th October… Scenario 5 - Scenario 5 is subject to FA regulatory approval and will require changes to the NLS Regulations and Standardised Rules, which also require FA Council approval. Deadline for decision – TBC.

At this point a full fixture programme is not possible without unreasonable levels of midweek and away travel. So, each Step 3 and 4 division is split into two smaller divisions, every club playing each other home and away to create a ‘half’ season, at the end of which, the split divisions are re-merged based on points per game.

The top five clubs will then play a Champions League style round-robin (ideally home and away) with the top 2 clubs promoted.

The lowest ranked five will play each other, home and away, with the necessary number of clubs (i.e. reflecting withdrawals or resignations) being relegated. Clubs not featuring in Champion or Relegation Play-Offs will be able to enter a voluntary cup competition.

We hope we won't need a Scenario 6, but if it is not possible to start until January 2021, The Alliance Committee will determine if and how the season will be played out following consultation with the member clubs of the Northern Premier League, Southern Football League and the Isthmian League by the Leagues. Any decision of the Alliance Committee and subsequent changes to the NLS Regulations and Standardised Rules will require the approval of FA Council.

All of the above is subject to change, because nothing about the situation we are living through at the moment can ever be certain. What we can confirm to you is that the Leagues and the FA continue to pressure DCMS to approve the return of paying fans for the league seasons to start on 19th September, and to confirm any limitations around this that they require.