The FA presses ahead with restructuring using points-per-game to decide promotion

The FA today confirmed that it intends to press ahead with its restructuring of Steps 4-6 of the National League System (NLS) for season 2021-22.

The move was intended to take effect from this season, but was delayed due to the impact of Covid-19, with 2019-20 declared ‘null and void’ and 2020-21 ‘curtailed’ with less than a third of games played.

The FA’s Alliance and Leagues Committee Committees have now met to consider this matter and will be recommending to the FA Council that the structural changes to the number of divisions in the NLS be completed.

Extra division

They want to address the ‘imbalance’ that currently exists and achieve the ‘pure pyramid’ at Steps 1-6. This means the creation of an extra division at Step 4 (the division above Northern league Division One) , which will be administered by the Northern Premier League.

A total of 110 clubs around the country will be upwardly moved within the pyramid at Steps 4-6 in order to create the new divisions.

The FA says this ‘will protect the integrity of the NLS whilst supporting clubs with a desire and ambition to progress, without undermining the stability of the system.’

Positive impact

It says the restructure ‘will have a positive impact on a significant number of clubs, supporting them with reduced travel and costs, and providing greater opportunities for generating income via localised fixtures’.

As far as the Northern League is concerned, three clubs will move into the new Step 4 league, with promotion decided on a points per game basis, from games played over the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

They will be joined by the top three ranked clubs from the North West Counties League and Northern Counties East League, along with the top-ranked club from the remaining 11 Step 5 divisions.

If an eligible club decides not to take promotion, the next-best-ranked club will be invited (and so on), subject to any cut-off point set by The FA.

Consett AFC is currently examining how the proposal affects the club, before making any further comment.

points across both seasons will be added together and divided by the number of games it has played across both seasons 1 . b. Clubs will then be ranked within their respective leagues on the basis of those calculations. c. Clubs who are eligible for upward movement will be identified as follows: i. Step 5 – The top 3 ranked clubs from each of the North West Counties League, Northern Counties East League and Northern League, along with the top ranked Club from the remaining eleven Step 5 divisions, will be considered eligible for upward movement to Step 4 and will be invited to make an application to do so. Multiple clubs will be upwardly moved from these specific leagues, as per the previous ratification by FA Council, in order to address specific challenges with travelling distance and time which exist at Step 4. ii. Step 6 – The top 2 ranked clubs in each of the South West Peninsula League divisions, along with the top 3 ranked clubs from the eighteen remaining Step 6 divisions, will be considered eligible for upward movement to Step 5 and will be invited to make an application for upward movement. Fewer clubs will be upwardly moved from the South West Peninsula League Divisions, as per the previous ratification by FA Council, on the basis of geographical reasons for the relevant divisions at Step 5. iii. The Committees are currently considering what additional requirements clubs who are eligible based on sporting merit will be required to meet in order to be upwardly moved via this process and further details will be communicated on this in due course. d. It will not be mandatory for any club which is eligible for upward movement to make an application. If an eligible club decides not to do so, the next best ranked club will be invited (and so on) subject to any cut off point deemed appropriate by the Committees. 4. The process outlined above will lead to a need to backfill in certain divisions at Step 6 to bring them up to quota. Where there is a need to do so, the Committee will liaise with the relevant Step 6 Leagues and ask them to consider applications that were made by clubs on or before 31 December 2020 from clubs in Regional NLS Feeder Leagues within their relevant geographical area. Given the degree of variation in the number of fixtures completed by clubs in Regional NLS Feeder Leagues, the Committees did not consider it appropriate to utilise sporting data in the same way to determine upward movement. Accordingly, the proposed upward movement will be determined by the relevant Leagues on the basis of a subjective application process (although sporting data may be taken into account), with the final decision to allocate Clubs being with the Committee. 5. All applications will be assessed by the Committees on the basis of the principles above and clubs will be allocated accordingly.

Gary Welford