Stansted, Sawbridgeworth Town and Enfield to return to competitive action as Essex Senior League announces cup schedule for end of 2020-21 season
Stansted and Sawbridgeworth Town will go head to head when the majority of Essex Senior League, Premier Division sides resume competitive action to fight for silverware.
The last league game took place 10 days before Christmas, but cup competitions are being planned for April and May, subject to the Government's guidelines permitting fans inside grounds and able to make food and drink purchases (secondary spends).
And, if all goes according to plan, Stansted and Sawbridgeworth Town will battle it out with Bishop's Stortford's tenants Enfield as well as Saffron Walden Town in Group One of the Len Cordell Memorial Cup.
The competition will see 16 of the 18 Premier Division clubs split into four groups of four, with the sections largely being regionalised to limit the amount of travelling required, before knockout stages.
The Len Cordell Memorial Trophy for reserve teams will run alongside it with a similar format.
Takeley are one of three clubs – Witham Town reserves and Aveley reserves are the others – to have elected to hold off until August for their return to competitive fixtures. Walthamstow's first team are not taking part in the first-team event but have entered their reserves into the second-string tournament.
"[The competitions] will work towards encouraging a gradual return to football, help to improve players' and referees' fitness levels and give clubs something to compete for," said an Essex Senior League spokesperson.
The league also hopes to run the Errington Challenge Cup - the league cup - on a knockout basis, with those eliminated dropping into the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy or the Peter Butcher Memorial Cup.
On their club's decision not to take part, a Takeley spokesperson said: "The club took the decision not to participate in any competitions due to the fact that there had been no games or training for several months due to Covid, and we did not think that the players would have been at their fittest, which could cause injuries etc.
"As much as we appreciate the efforts of the league to provide some normality with our football, the management decided to concentrate on fitness and preparation for what will hopefully be a normal 2021-22 season."
The cup plans were made following the FA's decision to curtail the 2020-21 season last month, despite organised outdoor sports being allowed to return from March 29 under the Government's roadmap for ending lockdown.
"Whilst the league and clubs alike would have preferred to see out the season, with over 75% of the season left to play, the FA's decision to curtail the season appeared to be the only option available," said the spokesperson.
"With the season being curtailed and not null and voided it means that the statistics remain, which may become relevant should we experience further disruption in the future due to the pandemic or if the FA feasibility study determines the long-awaited non-League restructure may take place.
"The number of lockdowns and the increased length of lockdown 3 really made the season end inevitable, unfortunately. Let's hope the vaccine programme and better understanding of the virus will ensure the 2021-22 season is not adversely affected."
Meanwhile, the Essex Senior League has been granted Kick It Out Equality Chartered League status.
It is subject to the league passing annual assessments to ensure it continues to meet the equality and inclusion organisation's requirements.
Kick It Out, which was established as a body in 1997, is an independent charity working with clubs, players and supporters to tackle racist attitudes within the game.
League representatives will be attending workshops and running some of their own for member clubs. League officials would also like other clubs to achieve charter status - currently only Walthamstow have achieved it.