‘FA isn’t interested in non-league football’ says Northern Premier League club official

Premier League Ball in Goal
Football at Steps 3-6 have been curtailed by the FA since January. Credit: Kelvin Stuttard, Pixabay

An unnamed representative from a Northern Premier League side has said that the Football Assosciation “aren’t interested” in football below ‘elite-level’.

It comes after it was revealed the majority of non-league teams wouldn’t be completing their season for a second campaign running.

With no matches in the NPL having taken place since late October last year, a verdict was reached by the FA that the 2020/2021 season would be declared as ‘curtailed’ due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic crisis.

Although no further match action will now happen, the results haven’t been completely null and voided, contrary to last year.

Though this is of little consolation to one club, according to their representative, who wishes to remain anonymous.

They said: “Curtailment is just a play on words, it means the exact same thing in that we haven’t got a season.

“For me, the whole null and void thing carrying on from last year is an example of how the FA consider football at our level and below.

“To say that something is null and void and then go into another season without a plan while knowing that there is the potential for further outbreaks of COVID, that just shows that they’re not really interested.

“The thing is that it’s not even fully null and void because they’re still going to play the FA vase and FA trophy finals from last season. 

“How can you say a season doesn’t mean anything but then play your own competitions?

“It’s because they’re important and we’re not in their eyes. It sucks as far as I’m concerned.”

At Step 3 in the Non-League football pyramid, the Northern Premier League (Premier Division) is the highest level of the game to be deemed as non-elite as per the government’s guidance on sport.

Higher leagues have been allowed to continue, however the National League North and South – Step 2 – have already decided to pull the plug on their own campaign following a vote by all clubs involved.

The representative says that consistency is key, and this is what makes the FA’s decision even more frustrating.

“At other levels, they’re making different decisions. Not all football was null and voided last season and for me it shows again that the FA don’t place any importance on football below what they deem to be ‘elite’.

A curtailment has seen many players from the NPL join those at a higher level – who are still playing – in order to develop their careers. Credit: Twitter / @NorthernPremLge

“Not many people speak out against them because it’s a waste of time if I’m honest.

“They’re right, will always be right, and if you say they’re wrong then you’re wrong.

“The FA’s website has a motto on there of ‘for all’. It’s not. It’s for the rich and not for the poor.”

Across the country, the lowest division of football now being played is the National League and clubs below this will now have to wait until at least the summer until they are allowed to resume with games.

The curtailment of a second season running affects clubs all over the country. The graph above shows the span at just one level of non-league football. Credit: Wikimedia/ ‘One Salient Oversight’

Alongside giving their thoughts on the FA’s handling of the situation, the unnamed representative gave an insight into how COVID has affected their club.

They said: “Football is a very expensive business. We’re having ground improvements and we’re gearing up with an eye to getting out of the Northern Premier League.

“The curtailment will be very costly for us but the whole season has been because we’ve had our crowd limits cut to 300, a stark drop from last season before the null and void and we base our budgets on our average crowd.

“We’ve just gone from month to month now knowing what’s going to happen next and at the end of the day we’re a business. I wish we weren’t, and I wish we were just a football club but we’re not.”

With rumours flying around daily about the future of non-league football and the financial struggles of numerous clubs being made public, there is a lot of work to do before normality can commence once again.

Marine AFC of the Northern Premier League’s second division played Tottenham Hotspur in the third round of this year’s FA Cup. The game on 10th January turned out to be their last of the season. Credit: YouTube/ BT Sport

Despite this, the representative doesn’t think that the FA will learn from this experience.

They said: “We need a clear indication of how to go forward and the FA need to have something in place to support football at all levels but especially ‘non-elite’.

“They need to put something in place to support clubs and they won’t because they’re not really interested.”

The Football Association did not respond to requests for comment.