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Isthmian League club withdraw from the FA Trophy

One particular Isthmian League club this week withdraw from the FA Trophy and were due to play their First Round tie on Saturday.

They were due to host Burgess Hill Town in the FA Trophy first round next Tuesday, a game that would have been played behind closed doors.

But, on the back of the Isthmian League announcing a further pause to their season, Margate have said they are pulling out of the tie – as they can’t afford to play behind closed doors and they have players self-isolating.

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A club statement said: “As you may already be aware, the Isthmian League have tonight announced that the Football season will be suspended due to the risks presented by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

“This decision has been agreed across the Trident Leagues, Isthmian, Southern and Northern (Premier). Currently they have given no details regarding review dates to restart the league, however, in the short term this means that no fixtures will be played throughout December.

“This has a particularly unfortunate effect on the Gate with regards to our scheduled FA Trophy on Tuesday, December 8. After much deliberation, we have taken the very tough decision to withdraw from the competition.

“A number of factors have contributed to this decision. Firstly, the health and safety of our players and staff are of paramount importance. Kent is currently in Tier 3 with alarming infection rates across the county.

“This risk alongside the fact a number of players in the squad are in isolation presents a serious risk factor. Additionally, as a Tier 3 area, no fans will be allowed into Hartsdown Park to watch the game. The financial implications of this apply a pressure on the club if we proceed.

“No one wanted this to be the way we finished 2020 but we hold out hope that football will return in 2021.

“We will update you with any information as and when we receive it. In the meantime, we hope supporters take good care and keep safe.”


Following the statement issued by the Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Football Leagues yesterday, further clarification can now be given in relation to the voting following the Zoom meetings held by all 3 Trident Leagues with their Member Clubs to discuss the impact of the raising of the lockdown on 2nd December.

There were 224 Clubs voting across the 3 Leagues and of these 172 agreed with the proposition to continue the pause in fixtures, 51 disagreed and there was 1 abstention. Broken down by League, 57 Clubs in the Northern Premier League voted to agree with 4 disagreeing, 68 Clubs in the Southern League agreed with 14 disagreeing and in the Isthmian League it was much closer with 47 Clubs agreeing, 33 disagreeing and 1 abstention.

The “Agree” vote was therefore 76% and it has been agreed that the three Leagues will not sanction fixtures at this time.

It is intended that the situation is kept under review in line with Government review on the Tier allocations and restrictions. Accordingly, the next review is set for 16 December and then 30 December. It is the hope of all the Leagues that a date in January can be set for a return to fixtures with Clubs who wish being allowed to play before that date but this will not be until there is a change in the Tiers and/or some progress in the funding of the Clubs at this level.

The Government has allocated £25m to Sport England to fund Steps 1 to 6 of the National Leagues System, of which £14m is set for Steps 3-6 but is heavily weighted in favour of loans, not grants. The FA is working tirelessly with DCMS and Sport England to have the funding presented as Grants. However, these negotiations take time, and it is not expected to have an answer or clarification of details of even the loans until mid-January.

The deep concern of all involved in the NLS is that circumstances may mean that it is not possible to conclude the current format of competition in a manner in which promotion and relegation can be achieved throughout the whole pyramid with Step 2 being brought up to 48 Clubs and Step 4 brought up to 240 Clubs.

If, therefore, no progress is made by the Government on the Tiers in either of the two December reviews, it is the intention of the Alliance Committee to circulate those concerned with a survey to gather the views of the Clubs as how best to finish the season. Options will include an alternative format competition and extending the season possibly into June 2021. However the implications of all such proposals will involve the cost of players contracts and the ability of some clubs to continue playing because of other issues of grounds and the need to prepare grass pitches for the following season.

The Leagues are mindful of the needs of all Clubs and are striving to find a solution which is fair to all.

Fans reacted after seeing that the Isthmian League club withdraw from the FA Trophy as well as the league statement…

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