FA Council set to ratify voiding of non-league and women's seasons as members stand by decision

Dan Kilpatrick
Getty Images

The FA Council met via videolink on Tuesday to discuss the voiding of the non-league and women's seasons, with little appetite to reverse the decision.

Last month, the Football Association announced the immediate end to the campaign for all non-league steps below the National League and all but the top two tiers of the women's game, with all results expunged.

The decision is still to be officially ratified by the 118-strong FA Council, with the 102 voting members set to vote by email following Tuesday's meeting.

The threshold for approval is a simple majority and the result is expected by the end of this week.

It is thought the Council, which is led by FA chairman Greg Clarke, is preparing to rubber-stamp the move, which has prompted over 150 men's and women's clubs to back a letter to the FA calling for a rethink.

Clarke began the meeting with a speech to the Council, reiterating the FA's commitment to finishing the professional season and urging the football community to come together to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

"We are committed to finishing the professional football season as this resolves the issues of promotion and relegation together with title winners on merit," he said. "However, we may not be able to finish the season as football is not our priority, human life is, and we will do as the Government directs as the pandemic unfolds. Further down the football pyramid, our Leagues have requested that the season is curtailed and that decision rests with the FA Council.

"We must have a plan to ensure that English football is not decimated should this season be lost and next season blighted," added Clarke, who warned that even Premier League clubs were "not immune" to the difficulties posed by the crisis.

"We hope we do not need this plan as we are all determined to finish the professional football season, however we would be fools not to develop such a contingency plan. Those that lost their clubs because English football did not rise to the challenge would rightly judge us harshly.

"Time is pressing as football burns through its cash reserves with no sign yet of a resumption of the game. Pointing fingers serves no purpose."

The decision to end the season prematurely has been challenged in a nine-page letter to the FA from law firm Walker Morris, on behalf of three clubs – South Shields, Worthing and Hastings – who represent a further 148 men's and women's teams.

Greg Clarke led the council in a video meeting on Tuesday (Getty Images)

It called for a "thorough consultation" before the move is officially ratified by the Council, and raised concerns about the process and timing of the decision, while accusing the governing body of a "lack of consultation and communication with the affected clubs and certain leagues".

The letter read: "The Clubs request that prior to any decision being put to FA Council to be ratified, the FA should ensure that a thorough consultation process has taken place through the leagues to their club members to ensure that what is put to FA Council to ratify is the will of the clubs."

The FA maintain that the decision was made by the leagues – taking into account the financial impact on clubs and the fairest method of deciding the campaign – and simply rubber-stamped by the governing body.

An FA spokesperson said: "The decision taken to end the 2019/20 season across Steps 3-7 of the National League System, the women’s football pyramid and the wider grassroots game was made by committee representatives for the respective leagues, and was supported by The FA Board and The FA Women’s Board. It will now go to The FA Council for ratification. We fully support the decision they came to during these challenging and unprecedented circumstances for English football."

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