NON-elite football in England has been suspended until December 2 due to coronavirus – here’s what it means to the region’s clubs.

The FA today confirmed what many had expected, that much of the non-league pyramid would stop play during the four-week national lockdown to curb the rise in Covid-19 cases.

READ MORE: Evesham United match off due to Covid concerns - boss explains all

Who does this affect?

Any teams playing in steps three to seven of the National League System.

In this region that takes us from the Southern League Premier Division Central – the division Bromsgrove Sporting, Redditch United and Alvechurch play in – down to West Midlands (Regional) League Division One – the division Droitwich Spa play in – and includes every level in between.

It affects Worcester City, Worcester Raiders, Evesham United, Stourport Swifts, Pershore Town, Malvern Town, Littleton, pretty much all of our clubs.

Who does this not affect?

Clubs playing in National North or South or above – in this region’s case Kidderminster Harriers and Hereford.

Why do they get to play and the rest don’t?

It dates back to last season and National League clubs voting to go with ‘elite’ status.

They did that to ensure promotion and relegation could go ahead and the season could be finished via play-offs behind closed doors, even though league fixtures were not completed.

Linking with the professional ranks in this way protected National League clubs from breaching deals with broadcast partners and saw them deemed as professional, enabling them to get help from government to survive the crippling financial consequences of the pandemic.

Support for this move was not universal and the down side came when the new season started in October when fans were not allowed in to games at this level and more government funding was required to keep clubs afloat while clubs below were allowed a limited number of fans through the gates. 

But it now means their matches can still go ahead behind closed doors, much like the Premier League, albeit subject to rules local authorities may bring in.

What happens next for those who have stopped play?

Nothing more has been said about any return to action but Covid protocols were in place and generally seen to be working before.

The best guess for now is that play starts back up when national lockdown is lifted under similar restrictions.

Clubs were limited to allowing in 30 per cent of the lowest capacity for the level they play at, but in some areas of the country that was reduced to 15 per cent by local authorities with some matches played behind closed doors.

The 30 per cent translates to 600 fans for Bromsgrove, Redditch and Alvechurch, 400 for Evesham and 300 for City, Raiders, Stourport, Pershore, Malvern and Littleton.

Today's FA statement in full

We can provide an update for ‘non-elite’ football in England following the UK Government’s announcement on new national COVID-19 restrictions that will be in place from Thursday 5 November 2020 until Wednesday 2 December 2020.

As a result of the UK Government’s new national COVID-19 restrictions, and subject to Members of Parliament voting tomorrow [Wednesday 4 November 2020] and the publication of bespoke guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport [DCMS], the impact on ‘non elite’ football in England will include the suspension of the following during this period.

• All fixtures and training for Steps 3-6 of the National League System [NLS] 

• All fixtures and training for Tiers 3-7 of the Women’s Football Pyramid [WFP]

• All fixtures and training for the Regional NLS Feeder Leagues

• All fixtures and training for The Barclays FA WSL Academy League 

• All fixtures and training for FA Girls Regional Talent Clubs

• All fixtures and training for FA Girls Regional Talent Clubs

• All fixtures and training for indoor and outdoor youth and adult grassroots football.

Our aim is to ensure that the 2020-21 season is completed at these levels and will liaise with the relevant leagues in the NLS and WFP and the County Football Associations [CFAs] to provide support and establish appropriate options to do so if required.

The UK Government has confirmed that school sport can continue as an exemption during this period.

In addition, the UK Government has confirmed that all Emirates FA Cup First Round fixtures will go ahead as planned this weekend between Friday 6 and Monday 9 November 2020. The 10 ‘non-elite’ clubs that remain in the competition will be able to play their fixtures under ‘elite’ protocols. In line with the new national COVID-19 restrictions, these ‘non-elite’ teams are only permitted to train together until Wednesday 4 November 2020.

Further updates on fixtures and dates for the 2020-21 Vitality Women’s FA Cup, FA Youth Cup, Buildbase FA Trophy and Buildbase FA Vase will follow in due course.

Re-starting football at these levels has taken substantial determination and commitment from stakeholders across the game and we would like to thank everyone for their vital contributions. However, health and wellbeing remain the priority, so it is extremely important that clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents, carers and facility providers adhere to the UK Government’s new national COVID-19 restrictions during this period.

We remain in dialogue with the DCMS, leagues, competitions and CFAs and will provide further clarification for ‘non-elite’ football in England following the debate in the House of Commons tomorrow.