The Football Association (FA) has an uncanny knack of shooting itself in the foot when it comes to overseeing English football.
The FA’s recent announcement about changes to non-league player contracts is the latest example of the nonsense they often come up with.
The new arrangement, which will come into force on July 1, will see injured players in the National League only paid in full for 12 weeks.
If they are ill or injured for longer than four months, clubs can reduce their wages to statutory sick pay.
This is currently set at £99.35 a week and is payable for 28 weeks.
Players also face having their contract terminated, with three months’ notice, if a ‘club instructed medic’ says they cannot play for four months.
Essentially, a National League player could break their leg and end up being laid off. That seems fair, doesn’t it?
With the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) only representing players in the top four divisions, their National League counterparts are left in a pickle.
And this is where the conundrum lies.
Around 80 percent of players in the fifth tier have played in the Football League. The division is also awash with former EFL clubs.
The National League is effectively League Three, albeit without the benefits attached to being branded in that manner.
Given the nature of the promotion and relegation system in the pyramid, the FA has a duty of care to players who end up in the National League.
Reducing their rights by putting them in a position where they could have their employment terminated due to injury simply isn’t right.
Given the largely professional nature of the division, National League players must be allowed to be members of the PFA.
The FA must also end the pretence that the National League is ‘non-league’ football. Many of its clubs get bigger attendances than EFL teams.
On that basis, the players at that level deserve the same employment benefits as their league counterparts.
It’s time for the FA to do the right thing and officially ditch the pretence that the National League is ‘non-league’.
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