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Festive Football Festival scrapped after withdrawals from Bury Town, Needham Market and uncertainty surrounding leagues and redrawn tier restrictions





Organiser Roger Peck has reluctantly conceded defeat in his bid to help recoup lost income for the area's Step 3 & 4 clubs over the key Christmas period with a series of friendlies dubbed 'The Festive Football Festival'.

The idea was a reaction to the extended lockdown suspension of leagues across the levels incorporating the Pitching In Isthmian League and Southern League, following a vote of member clubs from across the country.

Although a majority of 76 per cent of the 224 – including the Northern Premier League – voted for the motion of continuing the pause in fixtures, Suffolk's clubs had been against the outcome to not play on amid the government's punishing regional tier system.

Bury Town and Needham Market, who faced off in a friendly in September, decided not to be part of the 'Festive Football Festival' amid ongoing uncertainty about their league fixtures resumed Picture: Ben Pooley
Bury Town and Needham Market, who faced off in a friendly in September, decided not to be part of the 'Festive Football Festival' amid ongoing uncertainty about their league fixtures resumed Picture: Ben Pooley

AFC Sudbury, Bury Town, Felixstowe & Walton United, Leiston, Lowestoft Town and Needham Market had all been invited to a six-team round robin set of games which were meant to start this weekend and finish by January 9.

It was intended to tie players over in their fitness, help out clubs financially and provide fans with the festive derbies they would usually attend.

But after AFC Sudbury's commercial director Peck said initial invitations had been accepted by all but Lowestoft, it transpired Bury Town and Needham Market had withdrawn with the players not seemingly happy to play the extra games.

AFC Sudbury commerical director Roger Peck (far left) had lined up Caribbean Blinds, pictured at a summer kit launch at the club, to sponsor the 'Festive Football Festival'
AFC Sudbury commerical director Roger Peck (far left) had lined up Caribbean Blinds, pictured at a summer kit launch at the club, to sponsor the 'Festive Football Festival'

Sudbury-based company Caribbean Blinds were set to cover the costs of staging matches along with Peck's company The KBB Centre to allow clubs to fully benefit from income from a 'pay what you like' bucket donations.

Peck, who had added Essex side Heybridge Swifts to the list of accepted clubs, before the tier 3 change for the area was announced and further complicated things, said: "We are just going to have to pull the plug on it.

"Unfortunately, with the uncertainty over the leagues (restarting) and Essex going into tier 3, combined with players seeming to take the view they have Christmas off, it is not working out.

"I feel for the fans who are going to miss out on some competitive football friendlies over the Christmas period."

A confirmed decision on whether the suspension of the Step 3 & 4 leagues, known collectively as The Trident Leagues, is expected to be announced later today, following the redrawing of regional tiers.

But the Northern Premier League yesterday put out their own statement saying their clubs could resume their fixtures from Saturday, if they wished.

It read: "Following the announcement made on 10th December that confirmed the return of spectators to grounds in Tier 3 areas, we subsequently received a high number of requests from NPL teams asking to play league fixtures from Saturday 19th December.

"In line with the statement issued yesterday morning it was the intention of the Trident Leagues to await notice of the implications of the latest Government review expected on Wednesday.

"However, in view of the number of requests the Northern Premier League Board has taken the decision to permit clubs who are in agreement to play their league fixtures on Saturday 19th December with a 3pm KO.

"Should there be any adverse changes affecting our Steps 3 - 4 as a result of any announcements made on Wednesday, we will advise you accordingly. Otherwise we will look to resume the published league fixture schedule from Saturday 26th December for all clubs.

"This decision is that of the Board of the Northern Premier League."

It seems to pave the way for the other leagues, which were not as heavily affected by Tier 3 in the first wave, to follow suit, which Suffolk's clubs would appear to be keen on.

Peck said he was still trying to sort out some reduced local fixtures for AFC Sudbury, should the league fixtures not restart before January.

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