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South Shields consider legal action after FA cancels season

The club were 12 points clear at the top of the Northern Premier Division.

The chairman of South Shields said the club may take legal action after results for the 2019-20 season for the third tier of non-league football and below were expunged.

The Football Association announced the move on Thursday as sport continues to wrestle with the question of how to cope with the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

South Shields were 12 points clear at the top of the Northern Premier Division and all but mathematically certain of clinching promotion to National League North.

In a message on Twitter, chairman Geoff Thompson said: “SSFC will be writing to the FA in the strongest possible terms and will seek an appeal or will take legal action.

“Whatever the outcome following this appalling decision, the club will continue as before. However, there is no denying this decision has a huge financial impact.

“We have invested heavily this year in a host of areas and the loss of promotion will also affect some of our revenue assumptions for next season. My message to all our SSFC fans and sponsors is – sorry, a huge disappointment and we’ve all been badly let down.”

Lower down the pyramid, Vauxhall Motors and Jersey Bulls had already secured promotion from their divisions but will now have to try again next season.

Salford co-owner Gary Neville was baffled by the move, saying: “Can someone explain to me what is forcing the non-league divisions to void the season? We’ve been down there with @SalfordCityFC for 5 years so we have some experience of it and I don’t get it!! Help.”

Worthing chairman Barry Hunter, whose team were seven points clear at the top of the Isthmian League Premier Division and on course for promotion to National League South, admitted the news was “a huge disappointment to everyone involved at the club” but backed the FA’s decision.

He said in a statement on the club website: “This is not a decision that would have been taken lightly by the FA and it is one that the club fully understands and supports. This is a time for everyone to come together, be safe and get through an incredibly difficult period.”

The FA’s ruling also applies to women’s football below the Women’s Super League and Championship, while the grassroots game has been brought to a close for the season.

Sunderland Ladies were 11 points clear at the top of the Northern Premier Division but said in a statement on Twitter that they accepted the decision and recognised “that in these unprecedented times difficult measures must be taken to protect the safety and welfare of all within the game”.

The FA remains hopeful of being able to complete the men’s and women’s FA Cup campaigns, FA Trophy and FA Vase, while discussions are ongoing regarding what will happen with the National League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship.

The FA statement read: “The NLS and the Women’s Football Pyramid were able to build a consensus amongst their leagues and, where possible, aimed to create a consistent approach across all leagues, whilst taking into account the unique characteristics of each individual league.

“As a result, The FA and NLS Steps 3 to 6 have reached a consensus that their 2019/20 season will now be brought to an end, and all results will be expunged. This will mean no promotion or relegation of clubs between NLS Steps 3 to 6, and no promotion to NLS Step 2.

“With the Emirates FA Cup, Women’s FA Cup, Buildbase FA Trophy and Buildbase FA Vase 2019/20 all at advanced stages, the FA is reviewing all options as we seek to complete these competitions whenever it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“Clubs involved are close to reaching a major final and, for those clubs and supporters, we will do all we can to keep the Wembley dream alive.

“The FA will continue to assist and support the National League to determine the outcome of its 2019/20 season as quickly as possible.

“We remain in consultation with the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship board and clubs regarding the most appropriate way to complete the current season.”

The restructure of the National League will also now be deferred until the start of the 2021/22 season while the FA is seeking guidance on how the government’s financial support packages during the coronavirus crisis can be applied to football.

“These are challenging circumstances for English football and all decisions taken are in the best interests of the game and in consultation across key stakeholders,” read the statement.

“Our primary concern will always be for the safety and welfare of clubs, players, staff, officials, volunteers and supporters during this unprecedented time.

“Today’s steps take into account the financial impact during this uncertain period whilst considering the fairest method on how the sporting outcomes for the season will be decided, with the integrity of the leagues in mind.”

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