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This is when the non-League season will kick off for Suffolk sides in the rejigged Winter World Cup campaign of 2022/23



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Football fans in the UK are set to go through a season like no other in 2022/23 with the professional calendar altered to accommodate the 2022 Fifa World Cup taking place in the run-up to Christmas instead of its usual summer slot.

It means the domestic season for the top two tiers – the Premier League and Sky Bet Championship –will begin earlier and be suspended for the international showpiece to take place in the arid desertlands of Qatar from November 21-December 18. The leagues will then resume on Boxing Day.

Despite the third tier – Sky Bet League One – not being subject to the same winter break, the likes of Cambridge United and Ipswich Town will still have an unusually early kick-off, due to matches possibly set to be postponed by a club's or opponent's amount of call-ups (3 in a squad), with the first games due to take place on Saturday, July 30.

Bury Town and AFC Sudbury are set to return to competitive action on the first weekend on August 13 Picture: Neil Dady
Bury Town and AFC Sudbury are set to return to competitive action on the first weekend on August 13 Picture: Neil Dady

But how will it affect our Suffolk sides who ply their trade three to six levels below the Football League?

Well a kick-off in late July is not new for the Thurlow Nunn League (Eastern Counties) with the impact of Covid-19 and the two abandoned seasons across 2019/20 and 2020/21 leading to the most recent campaign having kicked off on July 31. This was done to give leeway for any further disruption from Covid call-offs or any more national lockdowns – fortunately the latter did not happen and the seasons finished on time, before May began.

And for the many Suffolk sides playing in its Step 5 (Premier Division) league that will be the case once again with Saturday, July 30 seeing its first fixtures – which along with other leagues up and down the country are not yet published.

Halstead Town's promotion and lateral switch to the Essex Senior League means they will be among the first sides in the country to kick-off 2022/23 – beginning on July 30 Picture: Russell Claydon
Halstead Town's promotion and lateral switch to the Essex Senior League means they will be among the first sides in the country to kick-off 2022/23 – beginning on July 30 Picture: Russell Claydon

But at Step 6 level it will be a split start for Thurlow Nunn League sides.

While the First Division South which now contains none of the sides falling under SuffolkNews' umbrella will also kick-off on July 30, the Suffolk sides in the North equivalent will have to wait a further week until August 6. This is because the South originally had three more teams (21 to 18) than its North equivalent, though this is not now the case – for an explanation of this, see the end of this article.

Saturday, August 6 is when The Emirates FA Cup – in the Extra Preliminary Round – is due to get under way for the likes of Ipswich Wanderers, Haverhill Rovers, Mildenhall Town, Newmarket Town and Woodbridge Town, on the same day the new Premier League season gets under way.

Phil Weavers' Mildenhall Town managerial career is set to get going for real on the last weekend of July Picture: Mark Westley
Phil Weavers' Mildenhall Town managerial career is set to get going for real on the last weekend of July Picture: Mark Westley

For clubs down a level in the Step 6 First Division North – the likes of Cornard United, Debenham LC, Framlingham Town, Haverhill Borough and the newly-named Needham Market U23s (formerly Reserves) – the season starts with league fixtures on August 6, assuming they have not qualified for the FA Cup.

For the county's Step 3 clubs – now only Leiston and Needham Market following Lowestoft Town's relegation – their Pitching In Southern League Premier Central season begins on the same day as the FA Cup and Premier League starts, on Saturday, August 6. The Vanarama National League and its North and South divisions (Step 1 & 2) - featuring former AFC Sudbury joint manager Angelo Harrop at Braintree Town – also starts on this date.

But for our now quintet of Step 4 clubs – AFC Sudbury, Bury Town, Felixstowe & Walton United, Lowestoft Town and Stowmarket Town – their big kick-off in the Pitching In Isthmian League North Division is not until a week later on Saturday, August 13.

This means Step 3 clubs are starting a week earlier than last season while Step 4 clubs are matching their 2021/22 equivalent start date in 2022/23.

For Step 5 clubs the scheduled start date this year matches the equivalent early start to guard against Covid-19 issues arising while for the area's Step 6 clubs the August 6 date is actually a week later than last year in a bit of a switch back to more normality.

But what happens when the World Cup gets under way in terms of our non-League teams?

Well, it is set to be a case of the 'show much go on' in order to complete their fixtures.

However, there could be a situation unfold where leagues potentially give discretion to clubs to agree with each other to re-arrange fixtures around England's knockout matches if it is thought the match-day income they so rely on would be severely hit.

With Qatar three hours ahead of GMT, the first two rounds of matches at the 2022 World Cup will be kicking off at 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm time slots in the UK. Kick-off times in the final round of group games and knock-out round matches will be at 3pm and 7pm UK time.

But England's group matches – against Iran, USA and the winner of tomorrow's play-off between Wales and the Ukraine – are set to take place on Monday, Friday and Tuesday slots. Only the Tuesday game against Wales – who beat Ukraine in a play-off – at the 7pm slot, would be set to fall into a situation which may lead clubs to ask leagues to allow them to postpone fixtures, if there are any for that date.

Teams added to First Division North

Meanwhile there has been a change to the announced league allocations for the Thurlow Nunn League that has come about as a recent of UEA FC withdrawing from the First Division North that has seen Harwich & Parkeston and Holland FC switch from the First Division South.

It means both Step 6 leagues in the Eastern Counties League will run with 19 teams each in 2022/23 instead of the previously announced 17 in the North and 21 in the South.

However, the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South, which now contains no Suffolk sides following lateral transfers for AFC Sudbury Reserves, Cornard United and Haverhill Borough, will still kick off a week earlier on Saturday, July 30.

* Key dates for 2022/23 season:

  • June 23 - EFL fixtures published - including Ipswich Town
  • July 30 - Ipswich Town kick-off in Sky Bet League One / Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division starts as well as Halstead Town in Essex Senior League Premier Division
  • August 6 - Step 3 and 6 seasons start for Suffolk clubs along with Step 5 sides in Emirates FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round
  • August 10 - Carabao Cup Round One including Ipswich Town
  • August 13 - Suffolk's Step 4 sides get under way in the Isthmian League North Division
  • August 20 - Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round (Step 4 clubs enter)
  • August 27 - Buildbase FA Vase First Round Qualifying (Step 5-6 clubs)
  • August 31 - Papa John's Trophy group game one including Ipswich Town
  • September 3 - Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round (Step 3 clubs enter)
  • September 10 - Buildbase FA Trophy First Round Qualifying (Step 4 clubs)