SOUTH West Peninsula League secretary Phil Hiscox has warned that there will be a very busy fixture schedule when the 2020/21 season does begin.

Hiscox was one of several league representatives present at 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.

The majority of non-league football in England has been suspended since March 13, with all leagues being curtailed at the end of March before all leagues at steps three to seven were declared null and void.

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 September option, which the FA believes is the most likely option, will ensure that all leagues are played in full, which means that the mammoth task of compiling the fixture list is now Hiscox’s priority.

“I would probably now start some serious work on producing the fixture list. I probably won’t publish it until we’ve got an absolute date, but I’m confident enough to now start preparing the fixture list so that once I’ve got a definite date I can tidy it up and publish it within days of an announcement that we can restart.”

Midweek games on the menu

The added task for Hiscox and his colleagues up and down the country will be to fit in all scheduled fixtures in one less month than would usually be available, given the usual start date of early August.

Although the FA said in the meeting that the traditional end of April deadline for fixtures to be completed could be extended into May, it will still be a considerable effort to fit all matches in.

In the case of the two East and West divisions of the SWPL – with Falmouth Town, Helston Athletic, Porthleven and Wendron United among the members in the West – 38 rounds of fixtures will need to be scheduled for between September and April.

With five rounds of games normally scheduled for August, Hiscox says that teams will likely have to play every weekend and midweek through September, October and maybe November to make up for lost time.

With this plan, a September 5 restart could see teams play as many as 17 games by the end of October and reach the halfway point in the season by the middle of November, allowing for the early rounds of the FA Vase.

This plan to “frontload” the fixtures is to get as many games in as possible before the wet weather, which has been a particular problem in the last couple of seasons when a swathe of postponements in the winter has left leagues struggling to get all fixtures played even when August was available to them.

“Even starting in September or October I’m going to have to put in far more midweek games,” Hiscox said. “Generally speaking, we play about 50 games in each division in August, so we’re going to be 50 games behind schedule before we start.

“As much as a lot of the pitches are looking in their best ever nick, it’s not going to save them from extreme weather.”

He added: “When I did the midweek fixtures last season for example, I did about half a programme each midweek through August until the end of October when the clocks changed, so the chances are Falmouth played every other midweek, it may occasionally be two weeks on the trot and two weeks without a game.

“But I’m probably now going to have to frontload the fixtures so there’s a full programme of midweek games every week, at least through September and October, possibly even in November whilst there’s a chance that the weather’s going to be good enough to do it.

“I’m still not a great believer in sticking midweek games in January and February because invariably they don’t get played and if they do get played it just causes the pitch to be off on Saturday anyway, so you haven’t actually gained anything.

“I think that those players that like to play will probably have a fixture list of Saturday-midweek-Saturday-midweek and not an awful lot of training, and those managers that like to have training sessions will probably have to lump it for a year.”

Cups set to be sacrificed

Cup competitions will be sacrificed to enable leagues to get through their fixtures, with the FA suggesting in their list of scenarios that league and county cups would not run at all, although they added that there could be ways around this.

For Cornish clubs in the SWPL, this would mean a season without the Walter C Parson League Cup, Cornwall Senior Cup and Cornwall Charity Cup.

This concession is also aimed at ensuring the FA Cup and FA Vase can still take place next season, and with there likely to be less time between rounds, having fewer cups in the fixture schedule could be seen by the FA as a necessary evil.

“We know the FA’s thinking that they want to protect the FA Cup and FA Vase,” Hiscox said. “Part of the cost of that will be league cups and county cups to a degree.

“They did say that there could ways of getting around it, but I suppose what they’re saying for me as a fixture secretary is you can’t have that situation where Falmouth are playing Perranwell on a Saturday in the Cornwall Senior Cup next season because they want step six to be a) finished and b) within a reasonable timeframe.”

New format for League Cup

Hiscox is still hoping on playing the Walter C Parson League Cup in some capacity, suggesting that the top two teams in each of the SWPL’s East and West divisions could contest the semi-finals and final in May.

He said: “The suggestion is that because May is outside the league season, or certainly a large part of May would be outside the league season, that you could expand that and perhaps off the top of my head here you could have the champions of the West play the runners-up of the East in one semi-final and the champions of the East play the runners-up of the West in the other semi-final.

“Obviously you might still end up with an all-West final but you would have had some sort of tournament, because if there aren’t cups in May you won’t have that traditional end of season either.”

As for the resolution of last season’s competition, which is yet to be cancelled, Hiscox is due to reach out to all five clubs left in the competition – namely Falmouth Town, Millbrook, Elmore, Bovey Tracey and Mousehole – next week to gauge their thoughts on finishing the competition.

An earlier plan was for the four remaining ties to be held in pre-season, although this plan is in doubt as it unknown as to how long clubs will get for pre-season.

Elmore, Millbrook and Falmouth have already guaranteed a share of prize money after securing their spots in the semi-finals.

Elmore and Millbrook were due to meet in one semi-final, with Falmouth Town meeting the winner of the quarter-final between Bovey Tracey and Mousehole in the other.

“It will be an open invite really,” he said. “If they want to play, we’ll let them play, but if they don’t want to play, they can take the money and run if you know what I mean!”