South Shields: Legal challenge to steps three to seven season voiding dismissed

South Shields V FC United of Manchester
South Shields attracted a crowd of 3,274 to their home game against FC United in March after Premier League and EFL fixtures were postponed because of coronavirus

A legal challenge to the Football Association's decision to declare all leagues below the National League null and void has been dismissed.

South Shields, who were top of the Northern Premier League, took the case to an independent arbitration tribunal.

Ninety-one leagues in steps three to seven of the English pyramid were annulled on 26 March.

In April, 150 clubs wrote to the FA calling for a "thorough consultation" over the decision.

The FA discussed re-starting the season at a later date, using average points per game to decide places and declaring leagues null and void, and ultimately adopted the latter way to end the season.

"In view of the differing composition of the leagues, the FA reasonably decided that there was no single solution that was suitable for all of them," the tribunal said in summary.

"In relation to steps three to seven of the NLS (National League System), it has not been suggested in these proceedings that it should have considered any options other than the three that it did consider.

"The FA was acutely conscious that, whatever it decided to do, it was bound to upset some of the clubs affected by its decision. It chose the void option after careful consideration of the alternatives, particularly the PPG option and after due and proper consultation of the clubs."

Original decision 'flawed'

South Shields
South Shields won the FA Vase at Wembley in 2017

South Shields were 12 points clear at the top of their division, although second-placed FC United of Manchester had two games in hand.

And a club statement said the outcome of the case was "hugely disappointing".

The statement added: "The club submitted an appeal on behalf of hundreds of supportive clubs across the country which shared its view that the original decision was flawed and taken without due consultation.

"Our legal options have now been exhausted which is a huge disappointment to not just South Shields FC, but the hundreds of other clubs which supported the campaign and saw their own hopes dashed by this decision."

In their findings, the tribunal said: "It is impossible not to feel sympathy for South Shields.

"It is a club that is being well managed under the leadership of Mr Geoffrey Thompson, its executive chairman, who has ambitions to steer the club to promotion to the English Football League.

"He has invested heavily in the club and has seen it promoted in three successive years and significant increases in match attendances.

"He has done much else besides, including making positive contributions to the local community through the club's charitable foundation. At the date of the Council Decision, it was well placed to be promoted to step two."

Top Stories

Explore the BBC