The 2020/21 Toolstation NCEL could start in September following the news that the FA's plan for the return of outdoor competitive grassroots football has been approved by the UK Government.
A proposed start date for Step 5 and 6 leagues in the National League System (NLS), including the NCEL, is from Saturday 5th September, 2020, but discussions are to take place with competitions at that level to confirm when they will each begin.
An end date for the campaign has been approved the FA's Alliance and Leagues Committees as no later than Saturday 15th May, 2021.
The FA Cup is set to start with the Extra Preliminary Round on Tuesday 1st September, 2020, and the Preliminary Round is scheduled for eleven days later (Saturday 12th) whilst the FA Vase begins on Saturday 19th September, 2020, with the First Qualifying Round.
Pre-season fixtures can start from Saturday 1st August, 2020, but these must be planned to be behind closed doors until advised otherwise, i.e. when an agreement has been finalised between the FA and the Government about the planned return of spectators at NLS grounds.
Clubs have been given guidance documents on the safe return of competitive training and matches. These can be found via the official announcement on the FA's website
Clubs will need to appoint a COVID-19 officer from their board or trustees who will take responsibility to ensure risk assessments take place to show they can implement appropriate measures to reduce the risk of transmission.
Their risk assessment and/or COVID-19 action plan must be on their club website by Saturday 15th August, 2020, and the league notified of its completion.
Laurence Jones, Head of National League System, said: "We understand that Clubs are anxious to return, and many will have been working hard already to think of how their Club can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
"We would like to thank all Leagues and Clubs for their patience and support during this incredibly difficult period for everyone involved in the NLS.
"The developments announced today give a roadmap to return and the support and collective work of Clubs and Leagues to be ready for September – subject to any change in Government policy – will be key in achieving this ambition."
Meanwhile, the FA have announced that club allocations for Steps 3 to 7 in the NLS will be released to leagues in the week commencing Monday 20th July, 2020.