Local sides set to kick off this weekend as football chiefs juggle lengthy fixture list with financial concerns

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non-league Forest Christchurch
New Milton Town are due to play Longlevens in the FA Vase Second Round this weekend (photo: Les Chase)

NON-league football bosses are juggling a lengthy fixture list with the financial implications of restarting football under restrictions of the coronavirus tier system.

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Sydenhams Wessex Football League officials have contacted clubs, who are all based in the ‘high risk’ Tier 2 category, to ask if it is financially viable for them to restart.

The vast majority of income at that level is derived either from fans entering grounds or spending on food and drink inside.

Although 300 fans are allowed into step five and six sides under Tiers 1 and 2, there are concerns fans will decide to stay away. Clubs in Tier 2 must shut their clubhouses unless used as restaurants, and anything bought as a takeaway would need to be consumed outside the ground.

Clubs may be able to access funds provided by the government, but it is unclear whether this would be in the form of loans – which most would not want to take on – or grants, and what the regulations around them would be.

The government will review England’s regional tiers every two weeks, so the leagues could cut across different tier boundaries. If Hampshire or Dorset enters into Tier 3, exemptions have been granted allowing players and club staff to travel to matches. Clubs in Tier 3 must play behind closed doors without fans.

As part of the restrictions for clubs in Tier 2, substitutes and team officials are required to maintain social distancing, players are not permitted to celebrate together, and team huddles are banned.

Football can resume from today (Wednesday) with FA Vase and Sydenhams Wessex Premier and Division One fixtures scheduled for Saturday 5th December. Local FA Vase Second Round action includes Christchurch vs Cribbs and New Milton Town vs Longlevens, with Brockenhurst vs Street playing in the First Round. All three sides play at home at 3pm. The only local team in league action is Ringwood Town who take on Division One rivals East Cowes Victoria away from home.

Premier and Division One league actions resumes in earnest from 8th December, with a host of extra matches added throughout December and January as league officials catch up on the postponed fixtures.

Sydenhams Wessex Football League fixtures secretary Roger Allen said he had to find new dates for about 170 fixtures. “In both divisions, Premier and Division One, I have had to abandon the usual efforts to balance home and away fixtures, but there has to be some compromises made for a season that is two months shorter than normal.”

He added: “With regards to the Premier Division, there are a few long-distance midweek fixtures, but there is still a bit of room in the list to allow for cup progress, bad weather and further disruptions.

“On the other hand, Division One is more difficult with two clubs not having floodlights and ground sharing. Any further disruption to the fixtures in this division will cause problems in rescheduling, which does not bode well if we have a wet or cold winter.”

Read The FA’s latest guidance for grassroots football at bit.ly/3qmJZ8T

Upcoming fixtures (3pm unless stated)

(5/12)
FA Vase First Round: Brockenhurst v Street.
FA Vase Second Round: Christchurch v Cribbs; New Milton Town v Longlevens.
Division One: East Cowes Vics v Ringwood Town.

(8/12)
Premier Division:
Bashley v Christchurch (19.30); Brockenhurst v Blackfield & Langley; Cowes Sports v Lymington Town.
Division One: Alton v Totton & Eling; Downton v New Milton Town; Newport IoW v Hythe & Dibden; Petersfield Town v Ringwood Town.

(9/12)
Division One:
Fawley AFC v East Cowes Vics.

(12/12)
FA Vase 2nd Round:
Millbrook/Sherborne Town v Bashley; U.S. Portsmouth v Brockenhurst/Street.
Premier Division: Amesbury Town v Lymington Town; Bashley v Bournemouth (subject to FA Vase fixture); Christchurch v Blackfield & Langley.
Division One: Fawley AFC v Bemerton Heath Harlequins; New Milton Town v Andover New Street; Petersfield Town v Hythe & Dibden; Totton & Eling v Downton; Whitchurch United v Ringwood Town.

(15/12)
Premier Division:
Blackfield & Langley v Amesbury Town; Brockenhurst v Hamble Club; Christchurch v AFC Stoneham; Lymington Town v Bashley. Division One: Hythe & Dibden v Andover New Street; New Milton Town v U.S. Portsmouth; Petersfield Town v Totton & Eling; Romsey Town v Fawley AFC; Verwood Town v Ringwood Town.

(18/12)
Division One:
Totton & Eling v Fawley AFC.

(19/11)
FA Vase Third Round.
Premier Division:
Alresford Town v Brockenhurst; Christchurch v Shaftesbury; Cowes Sports v Bashley: Hamworthy United v Blackfield & Langley; Lymington Town v Portland United.
Division One: Alton v New Milton Town; Hythe & Dibden v Whitchurch United; Ringwood Town v Laverstock & Ford.

(26/12)
Premier Division:
Blackfield & Langley v AFC Stoneham; Brockenhurst v Lymington Town.

(28/12)
Division One:
Fawley AFC v Hythe & Dibden (19.30); Ringwood Town v New Milton Town (14.00).

(29/12)
Premier Division:
Hamworthy United v Bashley (19.30); Portland United v Christchurch (19.30).

(2/1)
Premier Division:
Bashley v Fleet Town; Bournemouth v Brockenhurst; Christchurch v Amesbury Town; Portland United v Blackfield & Langley; Shaftesbury v Lymington Town.
Division One: Fawley AFC v Alton; Hythe & Dibden v East Cowes Vics; Ringwood Town v Andover Town (14.00); Verwood Town v Totton & Eling.

(5/2)
Sydenhams Wessex League Cup Quarter Final:
Amesbury Town/Folland Sports v Bashley (at Bashley if Follands beat Amesbury).

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