CLUBS from Steps One to Seven of the National League System have been told that next season cannot start without spectators, and that all those leagues have to start at the same time.

An FA online meeting with all Step Five and Six leagues, including the Toolstation Northern Counties East League, was held today to discuss the strategy for starting the 2020/21 season.

The FA are trying to work out what would happen if the season was allowed to start on various different dates, starting in September in the earliest scenario and as late as January in the worst case.

It is believed that the earlier date is the most likely for a restart. If that was the case, leagues would become the main priority, with no League or County Cups.

A November to January start could force half-seasons or having to split divisions in two. Any later than that may see leagues and any restructuring held over until 2021/22.

All scenarios are dependent on Government guidance and would be subject to approval from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The NCEL published a statement, including the main confirmed points at the meeting:

- As full as season as possible will be played.

- Football at our level will not be played behind closed doors as the FA understands the importance of bars and food outlets to club finances.

- As much inclusion as possible for our clubs in the FA Cup and FA Vase will take place.

- Players' and other officials' commitments post-lockdown, as well as the potential impact on our volunteers, will be taken into consideration.

A full copy of the FA presentation will be made available in due course, along with a document for all of our member clubs entitled 'Club Guidance on COVID-19 Return'.