It is set to be an early start for the region’s non-League fans, players and officials with the Eastern Counties Thurlow Nunn League setting the last weekend in July as their official start date.
The move to the weekend before last season kicked off and a fortnight before the 2013/14 campaign started was announced to clubs after the Football Association ratified the dates for all its competitions on Friday.
Clubs that have already announced friendlies on Saturday, July 30, as well as those with players away on summer holidays — which start the previous weekend — are set to decline the offer and potentially begin their season on a Tuesday, usually in the second round of matches, to enable them to get a competitive game played before they kick off their FA Cup campaigns.
It is set to cause a chaotic staggered start to the season, with Mildenhall Town boss Dean Greygoose labelling it a ‘crazy situation’.
Thurlow Nunn League chairman Peter Hutchings said it was the early start for the FA Cup extra-preliminary round, on the first weekend of August (6) that had caused the situation, which he admitted was not ideal.
“Historically, what we have done is given our teams the chance to play the weekend beforehand,” he said.
It is a crazy decision and the thinking behind it is rubbish.Mildenhall Town boss Dean Greygoose
“I think it is early but if the FA start a week early we have to offer clubs the same.”
In contrast, The Isthmian Ryman League season, which will have AFC Sudbury in the Premier Division for the first time in 2016/17 alongside Needham Market and with Bury Town and Soham Town Rangers in Division One North, will not start until August 13.
Ryman League clubs do not enter the FA Cup until the prelimary round on August 20 (Ryman One North) or first qulifying round on September 3 (Ryman Premier).
The Barclays Premier League also begins on August 13, while the SkyBet Football League commences on the same day as the FA Cup starts, August 6.
Mildenhall Town are of the clubs that are set to decline the July start date, with the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division club having already announced friendlies at Bury Town on the preceding Thursday (July 28, 7.45pm) and home to Romford on July 30 (3pm).
Hall manager Greygoose said: “We are asking that we don’t play.
“It is the first week of school holidays and we have four or five players that have booked to go away that week.
“You cannot take your kids away in term time. Players are active and so their jobs tend to be active as well. A lot of them are PE teachers or coaches, so this is their first chance to get away.
“It is a crazy decision and the thinking behind it is rubbish.
“They say it is to stop a backlog of fixtures, but I don’t think any clubs had one last season. Maybe Ipswich Wanderers, but that was because of their FA Vase run; you expect it. We did well in the cups last season and had no issues.
“There are 21 teams in the league as well next season, which means that one team will not be playing each weekend.”
He added: “If we have to play we will do it, but I don’t want to. We want to know soon because we do not want to mess Romford around.”
After the success of last weekend’s FA Vase and Trophy double header at Wembley when a crowd of 46,781 saw FC Halifax Town lift the latter and Morpeth the former, the experiment dubbed Non-League Finals Day is already booked to be repeated at the national stadium on Sunday 21 May 2017.
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