All Northern Premier League fixtures have been suspended with immediate effect due to the escalating Covid-19 outbreak.

No potential return date has yet been set by the league.

The news means Tuesday’s game between South Shields and Morpeth Town at Mariners Park has been postponed, with no rearranged date set.

In the meantime, the club will continue to make tickets for upcoming matches available to buy online and they will be valid for any rearranged dates.

A statement from the league said: “The Northern Premier League has today decided, reluctantly, to suspend all fixtures until further notice in light of the escalating Covid-19 outbreak.

“The League would like to congratulate the players, officials, volunteers and fans of clubs able to stage games at the weekend and notes the excellent attendances at those fixtures.

“Whilst the primary responsibility of the League is to the financial sustainability of its member clubs, the number of clubs reporting players or officials in self-isolation has now reached a point at which continuing to play games would severely undermine the integrity of the competition.

“In consultation with the partners Eliteform, all NPL Football Academy fixtures have also been suspended until further notice.

“The NPL is well aware that clubs and fans need clarity around whether the 2019-20 season is to be suspended temporarily or permanently, and the full implications of either eventuality.

“The NPL will be working with the other Alliance Leagues and the Football Association, to assess the various options and to agree a way forward.

“As soon as we are able to, we will share that information with member clubs and their supporters.”

Saturday’s BetVictor Northern Premier Division match between South Shields and FC United of Manchester will go ahead as planned.

The NPL board met on Friday afternoon and decided that all games in the league would be played this weekend.

A statement from the league said: “The NPL board has decided that all games will go ahead this weekend.

“Further to our communication of yesterday regarding the Coronavirus crisis, and following the Premier League and EFL deciding to pause the season until April 9th, the NPL has today been in discussion with the National, Southern and Isthmian Leagues to try and agree a common approach, but this did not prove possible.

“The FA has today stated that it is each League’s decision as to what approach it wishes to take, so each league at Steps 3 and 4 will do what it believes best for its member clubs.

“Accordingly, and in common with the National League, the NPL’s board has decided that all matches will go ahead this weekend, with future fixtures being reviewed on Monday 16th March.

“Our primary concern, as always, is to protect the financial stability of our 62 clubs.  This means playing as many games as we can, so long as clubs wish to do so. This is not contrary to the League’s and clubs’ duty of care considerations to players, officials or supporters but, in a season where clubs have been severely impacted by weather-related postponements, the NPL board believes that pausing the season right now would prove disastrous for many clubs.

“The situation is changing daily, so our approach to Covid-19 must be flexible, recognising the very genuine concerns around the health of players, officials and supporters.

“The NPL has consistently urged clubs to follow government advice, which is that football matches should go ahead as planned for now. Having carefully weighed up all options, and mindful that we are between a rock and a hard place on this issue, all NPL matches will therefore go ahead as planned this weekend unless a club is directly affected by players, referees or volunteers who are self-isolating or have serious concerns.

“Clubs have been issued with further guidance and instruction.

“The NPL acknowledges this is not a decision that will meet with universal approval. Although our current stance may have to be reviewed as events escalate, it will be business as usual for as long as possible.”

The Evo-Stik Premier Division is celebrating a new two-year sponsorship deal with leading online gambling company BetVictor, starting from the 2019-20 season.

The National League System’s ‘big three’ feeder leagues will also carry the BetVictor name in what is the first time a single brand will take on the title sponsorship of every Step 3 and 4 competition.

The sponsorship will bring a “remarkable level of new investment into each competition”, according to the league, which highlights BetVictor’s commitment to supporting the game and strengthening its digital presence through unique collaborations and campaigns.

Each league’s website has been refreshed, with new content added, with BetVictor having a strong focus on digital and social media.

The new BetVictor NPL website can be found at http://www.betvictornorthernpremier.co.uk/

In a joint statement, Isthmian Football League Chairman Nick Robinson, Northern Premier League Chairman Mark Harris and Southern League Chairman Terry Barratt said: “We are delighted to be working with BetVictor, such a high-profile sponsor.

“It is a major coup for the leagues at the Steps 3 and 4 of the National Leagues System.

“By working collectively, we become a much more attractive commercial and media proposition.

“We are all striving to professionalise our competitions and this sponsorship takes things to a new level.”

BetVictor’s Director of Brand and Creative, Matt Parkes, said: “We’re very excited about this partnership and we’re confident it will be a successful one for all three leagues and for BetVictor.

“The growing popularity of the leagues among the football community in the UK gives us the opportunity to amplify our brand’s digital presence and engagement, and to get closer to the leagues’ football fans.”

The players’ shirt sleeves at the 228 clubs part of all three leagues will also carry the BetVictor logo.