The Fermanagh and Western Football League Management Committee will meet today (Thursday) to discuss plans to reschedule the rest of the football season.

The current pandemic restrictions have further delayed an already packed schedule, and with a larger than normal Division One the 14 top flight teams are facing a fixture headache as they seek to find a way to finish the current campaign.

Committee Chairman Neil Jardine is keen to explore all possible options in a bid to find the best way forward.

“We will look at the situation in regard to the number of matches that still has to be played and the time frame for those,” he explained.

“Having started late and now having had a four week break because of restrictions, we will have to see how that can also be fitted in within a reasonable time scale.

“We will look at what the options are. The management committee will discuss the options and we will get the views of the people on the committee and the teams involved and see what their thinking is. All is open for discussion at the moment.”

The current restrictions are due to be lifted on Friday November 13, but the first two weekends are set aside for Junior Cup action meaning the local leagues cannot kick off again until Saturday November 28.

With each of the Division One teams having at least 22 games remaining, a total of almost 530 matches need to be completed if the league season is played out in its current format.

“We have had some contact from clubs who think there is no way they will get the games played in that time, but 22 matches are in theory doable,” explained Neill.

“When you look at the number of fixture dates we have, playing through from November 28 would bring you through to the first or second week of April.

“If you look at previous seasons, we would be averaging something around a 60 percent completion rate for fixtures because of cancellations, free dates, cup matches, bereavements weather or whatever else.

“That would mean you would be sitting on the first weekend of April with about eight games to play per team in Division One. With that schedule you would be coming in around the end of May as an end date, which is roughly what we expected. The official end of the season is May 31 but there would be no question about getting an extension to the season if it was needed.

“Obviously we don’t know if there will be further restrictions, or we could get a particularly bad winter that would put us further on the backfoot. We have to look at all those factors and see.”

The committee are also willing to look at alternative structures to assist in reaching a conclusion to the season, with the league splitting into two sections in a similar format to the NIFL Premier League, or a simple reduction of fixtures to allow only one fixture between each team also likely to be considered.

“Some people have mentioned going to a single round of fixtures which would be 13 matches,” said Jardine. “We have already played four matches for most teams so that leaves only nine matches and that could be finished in the middle of February. Is that viable either?” he questioned.

In addition to the league fixtures the Mulhern Cup needs to be played, but the Chairman does not see that as the first priority.

“The Mulhern Cup final is down for May 31 provisionally, but that can move. The cup competition could be run off very quickly in four weeks so the idea would be to get more league matches played before we start looking at cups.”

No decision will be made at tonight’s meeting, but the league has pledged to consider all possible scenarios.

“All we can do is plan based on a best case scenario and a worst case scenario and see what way it is. There could be more restrictions, which we can’t control, and we can’t control the weather so we have to decide if we are going to make a decision to curtail now or do we let it go until a later stage.

“There are no simple or direct answers at the moment as to what the best way forward is.”