FA council end Colney Heath’s promotion dreams as controversial decision to void non-league season is ratified

The FA have confirmed that the non-league season from steps three down is officially over. Picture:

The FA have confirmed that the non-league season from steps three down is officially over. Picture: NICK POTTS/FA - Credit: PA

The FA council has ratified the controversial decision to void the season for non-league clubs at step three and below – ending Colney Heath’s promotion and Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division title hopes.

In a statement on the FA website they said that the vote “overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying the decision” and “fully supported by the FA board”.

The decision to do so have evoked anger from some clubs with 151 of them writing to the football authority demanding answers to grievances.

The Magpies were one of those clubs as were the likes of Berkhamsted, Ware, Stotfold and Codicote as well as Jersey Bulls, who had already secured promotion.

They were angered at the lack of consultation between the leagues and the clubs and at the haste of the decision, especially as it was in complete opposition to the one made by the cash-rich Premier League, EFL and National League who are still looking to complete their season.

Laurence Jones, the head of the National League System at the FA, said the decision was made with the financial wellbeing of the clubs in mind, even though the letter sent to them from clubs said “the cost of terminating it now outweighs that of continuing”.

Jones said: “This is an unprecedented and extraordinary time for football, at every level of our game.

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“We have worked closely with committee and league representatives of step three and below to help identify a way through the impact of COVID-19 on football.

“During this very challenging period it’s important that our processes are robust and that we work closely and collaboratively with league representatives to come to a collective decision that’s in the best interest of the wider game.

“We know that it is impossible to reach decisions that will please everybody.

“We entirely sympathise with the teams that oppose the decision affecting their leagues, some of which have perfectly understandable reasons for wanting to see the 2019-20 league season continue.

“But it is important to emphasise that the decisions they took were made in the best interests of all the leagues, as a collective, and in consultation with key stakeholders across English football.

“We always keep the integrity of competitions at the forefront of our minds in making the decision.

“We know that at this level of the game the biggest challenge facing clubs is finance.

“We continue to work closely with government to ensure that the financial impact on clubs, many of whom play a crucial role in their local communities, is highlighted and that clubs have the same opportunities to access financial relief support.”

He went on to say the uncertainty over when regarding when football can safely resume at this level “would create great uncertainty on a number of issues which include player contracts and squads, the scheduling of the 2020-21 season and the ongoing financial impact on clubs.

“With any restart highly unlikely before June 1, the situation regarding the expiration of many players’ contracts and registrations would also add uncertainty for many clubs, and it may not be possible for players to play more frequently due to the requirements of their primary jobs.

“The consensus reached by the FA was to bring the 2019-20 season to an immediate end with no promotion or relegation.

“It means clubs, players, volunteers and supporters are provided with certainty and allows focus to turn to preparing for the 2020-21 season.”

Jones also went on the discuss the option of using points-per-game as an alternative to expunging results.

He said: “I understand that this decision has inevitably caused some clubs, players and supporters to feel a sense of injustice and those feelings are entirely understandable.

“Both options and the potential implications of each were considered at length by all involved.

“The truth is that the consequence of clubs being promoted is that others will need to be relegated. The application of a PPM model would result in certain clubs that currently sit above the relegation zone falling into those places.

“Equally, there would be certain clubs that currently sit in a play-off position that would not qualify.

“In addition, most of the clubs facing relegation will be of the view that they stood a chance of avoiding it due to the number of games remaining in the season and they may consider it to be unfair for them to be denied the opportunity to secure safety through sporting merit.

“The decision was based on two main factors.

“Firstly, the potential financial impact on clubs during this uncertain period and secondly, the fairest method on how to decide the sporting outcomes for the season with the integrity of the leagues in mind.”