CLUBHOUSES and changing rooms are set to be allowed to open when non-league football returns, according to South West Peninsula League secretary Phil Hiscox.

Hiscox was one of several league representatives present on an FA conference call on Friday with step five and six leagues in England’s National League System, which discussed scenario planning for the 2020/21 season.

Several pre-meeting concerns among the non-league community centred around the use of facilities at the grounds, such as clubhouses, tea huts and changing rooms.

Current Government rules do not permit the use of indoor facilities like clubhouses and changing rooms, which have been large sticking points for non-league clubs, who rely on clubhouses as key income streams.

But it appears that the FA feel that all of these can be open by the time the season does begin, albeit with social distancing rules and some extra safety measures in place, according to Hiscox.

READ MORE: September restart for non-league football is most likely scenario, says Football Association

“They expect all of these things to be open albeit with some degree of hand sanitiser, social distancing,” he said.

“I suppose the argument there is if the players are allowed to make contact on the pitch then they can make contact in the dressing rooms, whereas at the moment they’re not allowed to make contact in training, which is why they’re not allowed to use the dressing rooms.”

The main thing to emerge from the meeting was the FA’s four potential scenarios for the start of the new season, with August, September-October, November-January and a post-January start all being considered.

The latter two scenarios are still on the table, but Hiscox believes that the FA’s feeling is that they are less likely and listed as a contingency plan, with September the more likely date while August is too soon to be a realistic option.

The majority of non-league football in England has been suspended since March 13, with all leagues being curtailed at the end of Match, with several declared null and void.

“The current thinking was very much that if you are now in a maximum of six with no contact, it’s a very long way to go from that to playing a game, isn’t it?” he said.

“The intermediate step is likely to be more than six or to allow contact in training or a mixture of both, but you’re going to have that before you get to the stage of Falmouth playing Perranporth in a friendly.

“If they’re not going to announce that until July then they’re not going to announce friendlies until August are they? Therefore, the league season is almost by default September at the earliest.”

It was mentioned in the meeting that attendances could be capped initially at all levels, with a figure of 30 per cent being mentioned, although Hiscox believes that this would have very little impact on attendances in the South West Peninsula League.

“On ground grading a four-sided ground where you can walk all the way around as it were the capacity is normally listed as 1,500,” he said. “That’s 450 at 30 per cent, and that’s before you start talking like at Falmouth where you’ve got steps in the stand in addition to around the outside.”

The FA suggested in the meeting that all clubs will have to undertake a risk assessment in order to be allowed to restart.

This assessment will have to consider issues such as how adverse weather could affect social distancing, as Hiscox points out.

“You take somewhere like Helston or Porthleven where there is one proper stand, unlike Falmouth where you’ve got more under cover,” he said.

“It’s a dry day in October, social distancing even at one metre, you take the people’s money, you play the game and halfway through the second half the heavens open. How do you actually then manage the fact that everybody wants to go under cover?

“Things like that will have to be covered by the clubs’ own action plan. The FA are clear that they’ve got to do that as one of the conditions.”

One concern that Hiscox did have following the meeting was the FA’s reticence in giving a length of time for pre-season and believes that the FA may be aiming to keep the length of pre-season down to a minimum.

“There was some hint in the bloke’s voice that he was mindful that to fit in things like the FA Cup and the FA Vase I don’t think he was particularly keen to have a very long pre-season,” Hiscox said.

“Some managers are going to say they’re going to need a long pre-season to get back up and running, but I suppose from an FA point of view if you’re trying to keep clubs in the FA Cup and keep clubs in the FA Vase, you’re not going to want them playing meaningless games for very long.”