David McWilliam

Partner, Solicitor and Head of Personal Injury & Sports Law

DATE PUBLISHED: 31 Mar 2020 LAST UPDATED: 01 Nov 2022

Fury as Non-League Clubs Write Open Letter to FA About Cancelling Season

Over 100 non-league clubs have written to the Football Association (FA) over their decision to null and void entirely the 2019/2020 football season for steps 3-6 of the non-league and tiers 3-7 of the Womens’ non- league. There will be no promotion or relegation.

The clubs are furious that there has been a complete lack of consultation with them over their decision.

The decision has not yet been ratified by the FA Council.

Some clubs have already secured promotion and mathematically cannot be caught by other clubs. Jersey Bulls FC have won
all 27 of their league games in the Combined Counties Division 1 and will now miss out on promotion.

The current coronavirus outbreak and the suspension of all football is an unprecedented event.

The rules of the Association give the FA the power to suspend the game entirely. They may also extend the periods for playing, as from time to time, in its discretion, shall be deemed necessary or desirable, and agreements between clubs, players, and club officials, officials and match officials shall be subject to such decisions.

The rules also state that the season shall terminate not later than 1st June. Europe’s governing body, UEFA, have loosely set a deadline of 30th June 2020 for all games to be played and the season completed.

At present, the Premier League and the English Football League (EFL) have suspended all football until 30th April but they have another meeting this week and it is likely to be extended again. The Premier League Season was due to finish on 17th May.

The financial implications to non-league clubs on missing out on promotion will be huge. There may not be the huge sums involved in the Premier League or EFL, but the impact will be felt all the same. Teams that may have got relegated will obviously benefit from the decision to void the season.

If the playing season goes beyond 30th June, other issues come into play such as players contracts expiring, shirt sponsorship, shirt manufacturer contracts which will normally start on 1st July. For example, Liverpool Football Club secured a huge deal with Nike which starts on 1st July and if the season was to go beyond 30th June, will they be allowed to wear their new shirt or their current shirt?

Many issues need to be looked at before the FA Council ratify the decision taken by the FA.

David McWilliam is the Head of Sports Law at Ellis Jones and if you need advice on any sporting issue, please contact him on 01202 057710 or email david.mcwilliam@ellisjones.co.uk or sportslaw@ellisjones.co.uk.

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