NPL Premier Division must be divided into two, says Dolly Blues boss Mark Fell
Lancaster City boss Mark Fell has urged the Northern Premier League to act now and split the Premier Division into two now.
Last week clubs voted in favour of an indefinite pause on the season after the country came out of a second national lockdown, which lasted a month, on December 2.
Originally clubs were due to reconvene their league fixture programme almost straight away with fixtures scheduled for last Saturday and in midweek – City were due to play Radcliffe away on Tuesday night.
However, with a blanket ban on the admission of supporters to watch non-league games in areas under the government’s Tier 3 system, clubs at City’s level and below insisted it is not financially viable for them to stage games behind closed doors.
The league has put clubs on alert to re-start on December 19, which is three days after the government holds a review of the restrictions currently in place.
Fell revealed his men are preparing to play on Saturday week, but he admits that he personally doesn’t believe any football will be played this side of Christmas.
The Football Association are currently lobbying the government and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to allow fans back into non-league grounds, but until that happens then the season is likely to continue in a state of limbo.
In any case, Fell – who presides over the Dolly Blues’ first training session in over a month last Saturday – believes the campaign has already gone past the stage where it can be completed in full and he has urged the league to start making provisions for the return of some kind of competitive football in 2021.
“My personal view is that they have to split this league now – an East and a West Division,” said Fell.
“I think that is the only way we can do it which will provide a little bit of integrity to this season.
“You split the league so that everybody knows what they are doing.
“You have a re-set date of January 7 or you could even push that back to the first of February.
“Then you could say that you have got a four-week pre-season from Christmas.
“Probably by then, a vaccine will have been rolled out, the tier system will hopefully be different by then.
“If it was me who was in a position of authority then that’s what I would be saying.
“It’s nearly Christmas and we have played seven league games.
“Normally we would have played 20-odd by now.
“I was working out that we had 35 games to play in 24 weeks and that was a month ago.
“So we are already down to 20 weeks and that’s not taking into account any postponements because of the weather or Covid-related postponements.
“I think we are already at the point that we cannot complete this season in its entirety
“We are aware that there are discussions happening with regards to a split league – a 20-game season with two divisions of 11. We are aware that there could be some kind of points per game calculation and everybody plays each other once – so that the results you have recorded so far count – that could also be an option.
“I know there are lots of discussions happening but these things don’t happen quickly.
“We have learned now that speed is not something the NPL, the FA or the government are able to do.
“Speeds and clarity are the two things that we are drastically short of and I don’t see that get any easier or better as we go along.”