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The Football Association News

Return of National League System - 18 July

We write with some important updates ahead of the 2020-21 National League System (NLS) season. As we have announced previously, The FA have been working on Scenario Planning, Club Guidance and Spectator Policy in order for the NLS to return. We are delighted that today’s announcement provide the foundation for a return to football. Key Dates for the 2020-21 Season Subject to further approval from DCMS and the SGSA for the safe return of spectators at National League System Grounds, we are in a position to provide the following key dates for the NLS.

Start Dates: The following start dates are proposed for the commencement of the 2020-21 Season and conditional on Spectator Approval;
Step 1 and 2: No earlier than Saturday, 5th September 2020
Step 3 and 4: Saturday, 19th September 2020
Step 5 and 6: From Saturday, 5th September 2020*
*Discussions to take place with Step 5 and 6 Leagues to determine each Competition startdate, noting The FA Cup EP Round will be held on Tuesday, 1st September 2020.
End Dates:
The following end date has been approved by the Alliance and Leagues Committees and is fixed as with usual end dates for the NLS
No later than Saturday, 15th May 2021
FA Competitions:
We have always committed to do whatever possible to ensure all FA Competitions – and the accessibility of NLS Clubs in them – was a priority in our Scenario Planning. This was always conditional on when we were able to restart the NLS. September does allow for – in principle – the full inclusion of Clubs. Key dates are as follows:
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round: Tuesday, 1st September 2020
FA Cup Preliminary Round: Saturday, 12th September 2020
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round: Tuesday, 22nd September 2020
FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round: Saturday, 19th September 2020
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round: Saturday, 10th October 2020
FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round: Saturday, 26th September 2020
FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round: Saturday, 17th October 2020

Club Guidance Documents
Below (to download) you will find the NLS Club Guidance documents and The FA Guidance on the safe return of competitive training and matches. Both guidance documents are required to be observed by all Clubs. Please distribute these to your Clubs.
The FA Guidance is the framework approved by Public Health England enabling all competitive football to return, recommended to start with training and friendlies from August. The NLS Guidance provides Clubs additional guidance to enable NLS Leagues to commence.
The NLS Guidance supplements The FA Guidance, which must be adhered to by all Clubs.
We wish to highlight some key considerations for Clubs which you may wish to highlight in your communications.
COVID-19 Officer: All Clubs will need to appoint a COVID-19 Officer from their Board or Trustees. This person will have responsibility to ensure that Club Risk Assessments are completed and actions undertaken.
Risk Assessments: All Clubs will need to undertake a Risk Assessment on how they can implement appropriate measures to reduce the risk of transmission. This Risk Assessment is the tool to ensure Clubs consider all aspects of their Ground to be more secure. Clubs ground sharing must liaise with the host Club to create a Risk Assessment relevant to the standing of the Club the document is intended for.
All Clubs must publish their Risk Assessment and/or their COVID-19 Action Plans on their Club Website by Saturday, August 15th and notify their League that this has been completed.
Changing Rooms: Clubs must give particular attention to the management and operation of Changing Rooms to minimise their use or numbers within them at any one time.
Spectators: We have a specific proposal lodged with DCMS, with oversight from the Sports Ground Safety Authority, on the return of Spectators at NLS Grounds. This is yet to be approved and as such, any pre-season fixture must be, until advised otherwise, planned to be behind closed doors.
We are aware of the announcements by the Prime Minister on Friday, 17th June regarding the return of spectators to elite sport and have requested clarity on the impact of this on our proposal.
We understand that Clubs are anxious to return, and many will have been working hard already to
think of how their Club can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. We would like to thank all Leagues and Clubs for their patience and support during this incredibly difficult period for everyone involved in the NLS. The developments announced today give a roadmap to return and the support and collective work of Clubs and Leagues to be ready for September – subject to any change in Government policy – will be key in achieving this ambition.
Club Allocations
Club allocations for Steps 3-7 will be released to Leagues w/c Monday 20th, July.
If there are any queries in relation to the above, can they please be forwarded to NLS@thefa.com
Kind Regards,
Laurence Jones
Head of National League System