DESPITE the national picture looking better by the day, the continuing presence of the Covid-19 pandemic means the resumption of non-elite football still seems a distant prospect.

The vast majority of clubs below the National League North and South have not played league matches since before November’s lockdown as a result of regional tier restrictions before Christmas and more nationwide action after it.

With the current lockdown likely to be in place until next month at the earliest, the prospect of the game at lower levels returning before the end of the season is remote.

With this in mind, the FA have been collating feedback from clubs as to how the 2020-21 campaign should proceed or more likely, how it should be brought to an end.

Here, we look at the realistic options available…

Declare the season null and void

Despite fierce protestations from a growing number of clubs, this appears the most likely course of action.

When the pandemic first struck last March, the 2019-20 season went down this route with leagues much closer to being completed.

With non-elite competitions only having started in September, very few teams have played more than 10 league games so there has been insufficient time to determine any meaningful standings.

Understandably, simply wiping a second consecutive campaign from the record books has its opponents – plenty of them.

They argue that there has been time for lessons to be learnt and contingency plans to be drawn up to use something more calculated than the blunt instrument approach of null and void.

With restrictions on clubs seemingly set to go on for the foreseeable future even after the game is allowed to return, however, it seems the only viable option

Points per game

This would decide league standings – and ergo promotion and relegation – via a mathematical formula based on the points gained from matches played thus far.

That was how the English Football League decided the final placings in Leagues One and Two when the pandemic cut last season short.

As previously pointed out, however, surely not enough games have been played to for this approach to bring about an accurate and fair outcome – there are teams that have played as few as three league matches.

For that reason, this would appear to be off the table.

A points-per-game combination of last season and this

This approach has been mooted by many clubs who are vehemently opposed to declaring the campaign null and void.

Combining an almost-completed 2019-20 season with a 2020-21 campaign that had barely started would appear a logical solution.

With no teams promoted or relegated last season, the same teams are involved in each league and it would mean there would be some tangible reward for the efforts of players, coaches and volunteers who have fought to keep clubs alive.

It may hold weight with the FA, too – they are planning a restructure of the National League System that has already had to be delayed once due to Covid-19 and they will surely be reluctant to do so again.

However, with last season’s records officially expunged, attempting to revive them may open up several legal issues.

Resume the season when it is safe to do so and play to a finish

This is what the professional game did when Covid halted things for the first time – their season was suspended in March and elite leagues resumed in June, which would usually be the off-season.

Taking this approach would allow for the national picture to improve and allow players and fans to get back to what they love doing as soon as it is safe.

However, players are contracted year-round in the professional game while at non-league level, there are very few players for whom that applies.

Most deals at semi-professional level expire at the end of May so there would be contractual issues aplenty should this approach be taken as well as ground availability problems for many.

The workload that would be required should also be taken into account – the Northern Premier League, for example, has hundreds of fixtures outstanding across its three divisions.

Squeezing them all in to allow the 2021-22 season to start anywhere near on time would be a huge logistical effort and a lot to ask of part-time players, staff and club volunteers.

Resume the current season in August

With so little of the season completed, some have advocated simply picking things up towards the end of summer, when next season would have theoretically started.

It would avoid another null-and-void scenario and with fewer matches to play, the fixture schedule would be less congested than it usually is.

On the other hand, it would mean clubs would have to honour season tickets from this current campaign.

At a time where revenue streams would have been restricted for more than a year, selling season tickets for a new campaign would be another financial hit for clubs and perhaps one too many for some.