CLUBS in the Pitching In Northern Premier League will no longer be mandated to play fixtures over the festive period.

After criticism from some clubs that restarting the season at this point would effectively force them to stage fixtures at a financial loss, the league board had a slight rethink.

A full programme of fixtures was meant to resume on Boxing Day but matches on that day and on New Year’s Day will now be optional for clubs.

In a statement, the NPL say any further suspension of fixtures increases the likelihood of a second consecutive season being declared null and void - something they are keen to avoid.

Warrington Town chairman Toby Macormac confirmed last night that his side intend to fulfil their fixtures where possible - they travel to Witton Albion on Boxing Day before hosting Bamber Bridge on New Year's Day.

The Government has decided to allow non-league clubs in Tier 3 areas to allow up to 300 spectators into matches – half of what they could welcome under the restrictions in place before the November lockdown.

Areas within the new Tier 4 that Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last night, however, would not be allowed to stage fixtures at all although this does not currently apply to any areas in the North.

Below is the full Northern Premier League statement:

The Northern Premier League board met last night (Friday) to review its initial decision to re-start the 2020/21 season from December 26.

The principal issue raised by clubs was that, as a result of the original decision, clubs were effectively being forced to stage competitive fixtures at a financial loss.

The decision to re-commence competitive fixtures was based on a call back on December 1, where it was discussed with clubs the prevailing circumstances and at what point clubs felt a re-start would be possible.

One of the key points of consensus then was “that a re-start would be possible once clubs in Tier 3 are allowed paying spectators”.

Since the recent vote of 57-4 in favour of a continued, temporary suspension, paying fans have been allowed back in to step 3/4 games in Tier 3 venues, albeit at Phase 1 levels. The NPL is working, via the FA, to put pressure on DCMS to return to Phase 2 levels.

The league recognises the impact of lost secondary revenue from clubhouses etc. As part of our lobbying of government we continue to press for clubs to be able to open their bars.

However, with so many pubs and restaurants closed we have to be realistic. Government simply won’t budge on this point.

Whilst the league board has every sympathy with clubs experiencing financial difficulties, its primary responsibility lies with the competition as a whole.

Clubs have shown great ingenuity in generating revenues, even during the temporary suspension of competitive fixtures.

The league board’s decision to re-start the season on 26th December was unanimous, although the board recognised that re-starting would be challenging for all.

The league is also highly conscious of the unacceptable position that exists whereby Steps 1 and 2 of the NLS receive government funding and we, at Steps 3 & 4 may only be been offered loans which few clubs would wish to take up.

Once again, the league is pressing for these decisions to be reviewed, but this will take time.

The NPL wants to avoid, if possible, a second consecutive season being declared null and void. Clubs should therefore bear in mind that any further fixture suspensions could increase this risk.

It has, therefore, been decided that playing league fixtures on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day will now be optional.

Clubs who wish to continue with fixtures arranged for the 22/26/28/29-Dec and 01/02-Jan have the option to play those matches where both clubs are in agreement.

Northern Premier League clubs have all been issued with full details prior to this release.