THE North West Counties Football League has announced it will kick off the 2021/22 season on Saturday, July 31.

While the date could be reviewed should circumstances change, officials are confident that, given the easing of lockdown restrictions, it will be "good to go" for what will be the league’s 40th anniversary.

It means Padiham and Barnoldswick Town in the Premier Division and First Division North sides AFC Darwen, Nelson and Bacup Borough can now start preparations for the campaign ahead having seen the last two seasons ended early by the pandemic.

In a meeting last week, the league management committee provisionally agreed the start date as the last weekend of July.

A statement said: “Following the disappointments of the two previous seasons being cut short by the pandemic conditions, the management committee looked at the potential for logistical issues that could surround the restart.

“However, we are confident enough to set the date, subject to conditions being right to play open and competitive football in what is viewed as normal operating conditions.

“It is hoped that by the time July comes around there will be few if any restrictions regarding spectator access to stadia, hospitality provision and of course operational requirements such as team and officials changing facilities and so on.

“If we still find ourselves in a restricted operational environment it is likely that this will need to be reviewed. However, given the positive outlook at present with regards to the pace of road maps, vaccinations and lockdown easements we are hopeful that we will be good to go in what will be a highly anticipated season in the campaign that will take us up to the 40th anniversary year of the foundation of the North West Counties League.”