THE Northern Ireland Football League has set a provisional date of October 17 for the start of the new Premiership and Championship seasons.
The footballing authorities confirmed the date in a statement issued on Friday.
It read: "The NI Football League Board met today and confirmed a provisional start date for the commencement of the 2020/2021 league season.
"Saturday 17 October 2020 is the provisional date set for the return of the Danske Bank Premiership and NIFL Championship with supporters in attendance.
"A provisional date for a return of the NIFL Premier Intermediate League will be no earlier than October 3 2020 and will be confirmed once the dates for Irish FA cup competitions and divisional association cup competitions have been confirmed.
"In addition, the BetMcLean League Cup, Development Leagues (Under-20) and Academy Leagues (Under-16 & Under-18) start dates will be confirmed in due course and will also be no earlier than October 3 2020.
"The provisional start date is subject to external factors:
* The decision of the IFA Appeals Board in relation to outstanding appeals submitted by Institute FC and PSNI FC in regards the conclusion of season 2019/2020.
* The safe and viable return of spectators to grounds in line with the NI Executive restrictions and the agreement of the respective league management committees.
"The detail regarding external factors noted remains outstanding, however, it is important that provisional dates are set to allow clubs to continue their preparations for season 2020/2021.
"The League will seek to further engage a range of key stakeholders including the clubs, the Irish FA, the Department for Communities and the relevant local authorities.
"While we are pleased to announce the provisional start date, the NI Football League acknowledges the challenges our clubs face moving into the new season under the current restrictions.
"The League commits to continuing to call for financial and practical support from the Irish FA and the NI Executive to ensure football can continue its vital contribution to the local community.
"Further information on the fixture releases will be provided once the appeals process has been concluded.
"This will be provided to clubs and supporters at the earliest availability once the NI Football League is in a position to do so."