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Southern Counties East League delay restart until Boxing Day but FA Vase matches set to go ahead as planned

The Southern Counties East League have put their return on hold in light of new Covid-19 restrictions.

League fixtures were due to resume on December 12 but that’s been moved back to Boxing Day, with directors claiming they would be “failing in our responsibilities” had they stuck with their original date.

New Covid-19 tiers have put paid to hopes of the SCEFL restarting on December 12 Picture: Barry Goodwin
New Covid-19 tiers have put paid to hopes of the SCEFL restarting on December 12 Picture: Barry Goodwin

However, SCEFL teams due in FA Vase second round action next weekend - Corinthian, Chatham, Sheppey, Deal, Glebe, Kennington and Stansfeld - will play as scheduled, the league have been informed by the FA.

The board met this morning to discuss the implications of new coronavirus tiers which come into force when lockdown ends on Wednesday.

Kent clubs - about half the league - will be in tier 3 and unable to welcome fans, with the remainder in tier 2 from the London area.

The league considered their options but simply couldn’t see a way of resuming the campaign on December 12.

A league statement said: “As you know, Kent is placed in tier 3 which covers around half of the clubs in our constitution for the 2020/21 season.

"All of our remaining clubs are placed in tier 2 regions. However, the board were also aware that many players live in tier 3 areas and play for tier 2 clubs, and vice-versa.

"Under tier 3 restrictions, fans cannot attend matches, which have to be played behind closed doors. Fans can watch football at tier 2 grounds but the openings of bars and clubhouses is severely restricted.

"The possibility of continuing football on our proposed restart date of December 12 was considered by the board, along with amending fixtures to allow tier 2 clubs to play each other in the short term but we did not want to put a divide in our league and leave clubs disadvantaged in the second half of the season.

"We would be failing our responsibilities as a board and as a competition if we were to restart football and encourage players from tier 3 to play at tier 2 grounds just for the sake of football while the current tier levels are in place.

"This is a serious pandemic and the situation in Kent is greater now than it has ever been since March.

"We all know how important it is to try and keep everyone as safe as possible and we do not want to expose our clubs, their officials, our match officials and players to unnecessary risk.

Southern Counties East matches are on hold until Boxing Day Picture: Marc Richards
Southern Counties East matches are on hold until Boxing Day Picture: Marc Richards

"The Government will be reviewing their decision on tiers every two weeks, and as such the board were conscious that parts of Kent may be moved out of tier 3 in a fortnight, although we do not have a crystal ball and we do not know exactly what the future holds.

"We will look to restart matches as soon as possible and with the next review of the tier system due to be made in mid-December, we will re-assess the situation at this stage.

"As a result, all matches in the Southern Counties East League are therefore suspended until Saturday, December 26.

"The board will meet in mid-December to discuss whether it is feasible for matches to resume from that date.

"With regards to clubs in the FA Vase, we have been informed by the FA that these games will go ahead.

"Those teams will carry on playing in the FA Vase competition only with matches planned from December 5.

"If clubs in tier 3 are due to be at home then those matches will be played behind closed doors.

"If clubs in tier 3 are playing away to a tier 2 club, the guidance from the FA is that spectators from tier 3 should not travel as you should be remaining in your tier.

"Please respect this guidance and do not put yourself and others at unnecessary risk.

"As much as we all love our football and can’t wait to restart the season, the board value each other and all our participants and volunteers even more.

"Please keep safe and we hope for better news in the weeks ahead.”

Read more: The latest sports news in Kent

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