THE North West Counties Football League says its 2020-21 season will not start until October at the earliest.

In a statement released last night, the league confirmed a provisional start date for the campaign would be Saturday, October 3.

FA guidelines state the season can start from September 5, but with much of the NWCFL's geographical area still under tightened coronavirus restrictions, that has been deemed unfeasible currently.

Warrington Rylands 1906 currently ply their trade in the NWCFL Premier Division but are set to have FA Cup matches in September.

The league say the ability to play in front of paying spectators is key, with kicking off behind closed doors deemed "financially unviable" for most clubs.

They also say contingency plans are being made should the need arise to delay the start of the campaign even further.

NWCFL statement in full:

At the League Management Committee Meeting held on 5th August 2020, the start date of the 2020/21 was discussed at length.

"There are significant logistical challenges ahead before the League can consider starting the new campaign, so the League Committee has agreed that it is currently unfeasible to start the new season on 5th September, as per FA guidelines.

"The FA has stated that the NLS season will not commence until paying spectators are permitted into the grounds.

"This is fundamental to be able to start the season in a sustainable way for clubs. The cost of kicking off behind closed doors, for the majority of clubs, is financially unviable.

"We need to start somewhere and looking at the permutations of the current Covid-19 situation in the North West, the Management Committee has set a provisional start date of Saturday 3rd October 2020.

"This is subject to circumstances permitting and of course Government legislation allowing gatherings of a certain size.

"Although pre-season fixtures have already started for some clubs, there are several who are unable to play due to Local Authority rules, or the risk to vulnerable volunteers.

"For fairness, and the integrity of the competition, it was agreed that all clubs should be allowed a minimum of one month of ‘playing time’ to prepare.

"Therefore, the start date will move accordingly should we not be able to give the go-ahead four weeks prior to the proposed start.

"At present there is a considerable list of items to be considered before we can start playing again.

"We are currently unable to set a fixture list due to groundshares between several of our clubs and those from other Leagues.

"Those Leagues in turn have to wait for the fixtures of higher leagues due to ground safety and local policing requirements so it all has a knock-on impact.

"In addition, the Isle of Man still has strict quarantine restrictions in place which add further complication.

"In implementing the 3rd October as a provisional start date, the Management Committee is mindful of the Covid-19 issues currently being faced in the North West and the likely changes in legislation as a result.

"Therefore, we are also making contingency plans for how the competition will operate if the start date goes into November or beyond."