National League System - Steps 5 & 6 restructure update (February 2020)

John Treleven

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NATIONAL LEAGUE SYSTEM: STEP 5/6 RESTRUCTURE UPDATE

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the February edition of the ‘National League System: Step 5/6 Restructure Update’, which follows a meeting of all Step 5/6 Leagues held at Leicestershire & Rutland County F.A. on Sunday 2nd February 2020. As you will all be well aware, we are nearing the business end of the season and with that a lot of speculation as to where Clubs will be placed for the 2020-21 season. At the outset it is important to understand that we cannot possibly know the final outcomes until the final ball of the season is kicked but what we are committing to you, the Clubs, is that we will provide as much information as practicably possible in order to best prepare Clubs for the 2020-21 season.
To that end, we have conducted a mapping exercise (and will do so again in April) – this mapping exercise creates a simulated version of Club allocations at Steps 5 and 6 and is calculated using the following conditions: 
The tables as they were at 31 December 2019 
The Clubs are then ranked on their points per match average – this avoids the situation of a false simulation for those Clubs that are catching up on fixtures due to cup runs or postponements 
The promotion and relegation Regulations are applied (Note 1)
Note: the simulation has assumed that the winners of the seven Step 4/5 Play-Offs will be the Step 5 Clubs. This decision was taken on the basis that it would create the most movement and would be a ‘worst’ case scenario in terms of changes to League boundaries 
The divisions are then arranged into groups of 20 at Step 5 and 18-20 at Step 6. It is the aim of The F.A.’s Leagues Committee to create divisions of 20 at Step 6, where possible. However, in geographical instances some divisions may operate with 18 or 19 for the first season. As mentioned above, we will be performing the simulation again during March for circulation in April. This will no doubt provide The F.A.’s Leagues Committee (and in turn Leagues and Clubs) with a greater understanding of where the boundaries may lie. When circulating the mapping in April, Clubs who could be at risk of lateral movement will be given a notification to that effect. But, once again, we must stress that the final outcomes will not be known until the end of the season. Thank you for your support during this final, yet crucial, part of the National League System restructure and good luck for the remainder of the season.

Mark Frost, F.A. Leagues Committee Chairman – on behalf of The F.A. Leagues Committee

Note 1 See Appendix A – Promotion and Relegation Regulations: Steps 5, 6 and 7

PROJECTED ALLOCATIONS

STEP 5 As anticipated, owing to the fact that Step 5 is gaining two divisions, the projected Club allocations for Step 5 are extremely close to those predicted at the outset (Note 2). The originally predicted boundaries are the shaded polygons, with the simulated Club allocations being highlighted with a marker in the corresponding colour to the polygon (the same principle applies to Step 6, although the polygons are transparent, not shaded).

STEP 6 At Step 6 the landscape is more challenging in so much that we do not know at this stage which Clubs will be promoted from Step 7. The grouping of Clubs has been performed on the following basis (Note 3) 
Initially, Clubs were grouped within the previously communicated draft boundaries 
This led to an imbalance and so some movement to other Leagues has been administered 
Clubs in relegation positions at Step 6 have been kept in the Step 6 mapping,
for now the Step 7 promotion candidates are marked with 
This simulation has grouped divisions which vary in size from 13 to 23 Clubs, with 15 of the divisions being allocated 17 or more Clubs (before Step 7 promotion is factored in). 
With the numbers of Clubs applying for promotion from Step 7 to 6 we anticipate that all divisions will be allocated with 18+ Clubs, such is the Committee’s target.

PLEASE NOTE:
In the first instance, if queries arise, please lodge these with your League Secretary who will compile any comments and forward these to The F.A. in one ‘batch’.
The F.A.’s Leagues Committee will endeavour to provide answers to these by return – either shortly after receiving the feedback or contained within the next update.

Note 2
See Appendix B – Step 5: projected boundaries [Feb 2020]
Note 3
See Appendix C – Step 6: projected boundaries [Feb 2020]

TIMESCALES

The F.A.’s Leagues Committee can confirm the following timescales: Further mapping simulation March 2020 Maps presented to The F.A.’s Leagues Committee 1 April 2020 Circulation of April update to Leagues and Clubs – including more specific lateral movement warning No later than 17 April 2020 (this may take a little time due to lateral movement warnings)

SEASON ENDS The F.A.’s Leagues Committee agree to draft Step 5/6 Club allocations 12 May 2020 Clubs proposed for lateral movement are informed and any Club wishing to lodge its views as to the proposed lateral movement has 7 days in which to do so
Clubs informed on 12 May 2020, have until 5pm on 19 May 2020 to lodge views
Views are considered as and when they arrive, with final views being considered on evening of 19 May deadline
12 to 19 May 2020
Step 5/6 Club allocations released 21 May 2020

* All dates subject to any required change/unforeseen circumstances

APPENDIX A PROMOTION & RELEGATION REGULATIONS: STEPS 5, 6 AND 7

Step 4 and Step 5
The Clubs finishing in last place in each of the seven divisions at Step 4 at the end of the Regular Season will take part in Step 4/5 Play Off matches against a Step 5 Club. A total of 24 Clubs will be automatically promoted to Step 4. These Clubs will be:
LEAGUE POSITION Combined Counties League Champion Club Eastern Counties League Champion Club Essex Senior League Champion Club Hellenic League Champion Club Midland League Champion Club North West Counties League Champion Club, 2nd and 3rd placed Clubs Northern League Champion Club, 2nd and 3rd placed Clubs Northern Counties East League Champion Club, 2nd and 3rd placed Clubs Southern Counties East League Champion Club Spartan South Midlands League Champion Club Southern Combination Champion Club United Counties League Champion Club Wessex League Champion Club Western League Champion Club
In addition to the above, the remaining second placed Clubs will be ranked on points per game (then goal difference, then goals scored if required) with the four highest placed Clubs also receiving automatic promotion.
The remaining seven second placed Clubs will take part in the Step 4/5 Play Off matches on a single match basis at the ground of the Step 4 Club they are drawn against. Where possible, the draw for the Play Off matches will be regionalised. The winners of these Step 4/5 Play Off matches will be allocated to Step 4.
The Clubs to be promoted from Step 5 will be allocated to the most geographically appropriate division at Step 4.
A Club promoted to Step 4 shall comply with the Licencing System provision as set out in Appendix 1 to the Standardised Rules.
Step 5 and Step 6
The Clubs in the bottom place in each of the fourteen divisions at Step 5 at the end of the Regular Season will be ranked on a points per match basis (then goal difference, then goals scored if required) - the twelve lowest will be relegated and placed in the most geographically appropriate division of Step 6. These Clubs will be replaced by the Clubs in first and second position of the two divisions operated by the South West Peninsula League and the Clubs placed in first, second, third and fourth positions in the remaining eighteen Leagues at Step 6 at the end of the Regular Season.

Step 6 and 7
At the end of the Regular Playing Season the Clubs in the bottom two positions of each of the twenty Step 6 divisions will be liable to relegation.
All Step 7 Clubs seeking promotion to Step 6 must make application using the prescribed form direct to The Association, copied to their existing League, by 31st December in the relevant year.
In order to be considered for promotion Clubs must finish in 1st position in their Step 7 league. If the Club finishing in 1st position does not wish to be promoted or fails to meet the entry criteria then the club finishing in 2nd position will be eligible for promotion. If the club in 2nd position does not seek promotion or fails to meet the entry criteria then clubs down to 5th position may be considered for promotion provided that they meet the appropriate entry criteria. Clubs finishing below 5th position may not be considered for promotion and, for this season only, more than one club may be considered from each League. Each application must be accompanied by the agreed application fee, as determined by the Committee, which is nonrefundable.
No more than 40 Clubs will be promoted from Step 7. If more than 40 Clubs are eligible for promotion they will be chosen based on a points per match basis. Where the eligible Clubs count does not reach 40 in number, reprieves of Step 6 Clubs shall come into effect on a points per match basis.

Appendices B & C are maps of the projections for Steps 5 & 6 respectively but make the file too large to load
 

paulh66

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The official FA update in full is here: https://resources.thefa.com/images/ftimages/data/league522238936/89140.pdf

Very welcome it is too. Not only does it literally map out potential league compositions but also links it to the actual regulations and sets out a clear timetable for how it will all play out in the coming months.

One of the criticisms last year (and prior) was all the second guessing that Joe Public (as well as some of the less switched-on clubs and leagues!) had to do to figure out what was going on. Regular and timely communication pieces such as this really should help in that regard.

So well done FA. Though of course it'll never stop the arguments about what the maps themselves should look like!
 
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windydcfc

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The official FA update in full is here: https://resources.thefa.com/images/ftimages/data/league522238936/89140.pdf

Very welcome it is too. Not only does it literally map out potential league compositions but also links it to the actual regulations and sets out a clear timetable for how it will all play out in the coming months.

One of the criticisms last year (and prior) was all the second guessing that Joe Public (as well as some of the less switched-on clubs and leagues!) had to do to figure out what was going on. Regular and timely communication pieces such as this really should help in that regard.

So well done FA. Though of course it'll never stop the arguments about what the maps themselves should look like!
I’ve been told that coloured areas are the FA’s preferred footprints. Those clubs inside those areas should make up those leagues. So the other coloured teams inside those areas, have been put on notice of a lateral transfer. Those outside the areas will be added to the league’s to fill them up. But like everything, this isn’t set in stone until they have all the information.
 

Atavistic

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Now, if we could get a similarly useful and official update about the latest round of restructuring at Step 4, that would be great.
 

paulh66

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I’ve been told that coloured areas are the FA’s preferred footprints.
The fact those maps have been prepared by the FA and used for illustration purposes in an official FA document would suggest that's a given.

Really impressed with their communication piece, tells us pretty much everything we need to know (re steps 5/6). So far..
 
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TrevorT

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The fact those maps have been prepared by the FA and used for illustration purposes in an official FA document would suggest that's a given.

Really impressed with their communication piece, tells us pretty much everything we need to know (re steps 5/6). So far..

More in hope that we get to the end of this season and the proposed restructuring does happen for 2021/2022, I was wondering if any of this forums learned folk know what would happen to clubs currently playing at Step 7 (and below) in a League that also has a Step 5 and Step 6 division?

For instance clubs in Spartan South Midlands 2, Southern Combination 2, Hellenic 2 and Midland 2 & 3. Will these Leagues continue to run these divisions or will the clubs in these divisions be placed 'elsewhere'?
 

007Dale

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More in hope that we get to the end of this season and the proposed restructuring does happen for 2021/2022, I was wondering if any of this forums learned folk know what would happen to clubs currently playing at Step 7 (and below) in a League that also has a Step 5 and Step 6 division?

For instance clubs in Spartan South Midlands 2, Southern Combination 2, Hellenic 2 and Midland 2 & 3. Will these Leagues continue to run these divisions or will the clubs in these divisions be placed 'elsewhere'?
I’ve not seen a proposal to scrap these. In essence the leagues running divisions at steps 5/6 are for admin purposes only. The footprint of a step 5 league can differ from the step 6 league (UCL is an example). Ergo, winning a step 6 league doesn’t mean you will always be placed at the step 5 equivalent. And so, it would be the same for step 7 leagues. Since a league can’t determine its own rules for promotion and relegation (such as how many teams are promoted and relegated) then who runs a division and at which step seems to matter little as far as I can tell.
 

Brightside

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There are currently (I believe) 38 spaces to fill at Step 6 next season.

I believe that there are supposed to only be 40 promotions from NLS Feeder Leagues.
There are also only supposed to promote 1 team per NLS Feeder League (even though they removed this rule last season)

What is most likely to happen?

A) 0-2 Relegations & 38-40 promotions from NLS Feeder Leagues.
B) More than 2 Relegations and more than 40 promotions.
C) Some Relegations, some promotions and many Step 6 spaces again next season.

Unless they allow more promotions or stop relegations for a few seasons, I can't see Step 6 ever being fully populated.
 

Sarumio Whites

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I reckon we can safely say at this stage that no one will be relegated from Step 6 this season.

There are currently 48 NLS Feeder Leagues.

Multiple leagues will have no promotion applicants from the outset (Immediately springing to mind is the Oxfordshire Senior and the Essex & Suffolk Border League)

Others will have applications that are just not realistic.

I reckon about 25 will be successful, and thats the best case scenario.

The FA will then have three options

- Infill with other clubs outside the NLS - with clubs like Southam and Kington from the Hellenic, or from other ambitious clubs further down the leagues.

- Promote second clubs from certain NLS feeder leagues (there'll be multiple applicants from both the CML divisions and the WMRL Div One at the very least).

- Run Step 6 short yet again.

But then it wouldn;t be right or fair to promote clubs like Southam, Kington etc ahead of clubs that have finished second in an NLS Feeder Division, who are only not allowed up due to another team in their division, finishing higher than them also applying.

I think leagues like the CML and WMRL are just going to have to play nicely, and agree to letting multiple clubs go, but with both those leagues in serious decline, they won't make it easy or let them go without an almighty fight with the FA!
 

oftenscore6

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I'd have much less of an issue with a Hellenic 2 side being accepted for promotion to step 6 than taking anyone from a lower division of a league which is at step 7 - I don't think those should be considered. Sure, the fully fledged step 7 leagues should have automatic rights for one place but if vacancies remain after that, then suitable Hellenic 2 clubs are reasonable to consider.
 

pitch 63

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According to the Glos FA, the Hellenic 2 is officially Step 8 - the Gloucestershire County League is officially Step 7 - there are a number of clubs in the GCL wanting promotion to Step 6. There is also a large number of clubs in the four Step 8 leagues in Glos wanting to get into the County League - there has been a log jam for years. Conversely, nobody wanted promotion last season to Step 6 from the Somerset. County League.
 

Brightside

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I don't see why multiple teams from the stronger Step 7 leagues can't be promoted, especially when there are multiple spaces.

It doesn't seem right at National Feeder League level to treat all 48 leagues the same. It's probably harder to finish 6th in the Central Midlands League North or South than it is to win the Shropshire County League.
 

Richard Rundle

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I don't see why multiple teams from the stronger Step 7 leagues can't be promoted, especially when there are multiple spaces.

It doesn't seem right at National Feeder League level to treat all 48 leagues the same. It's probably harder to finish 6th in the Central Midlands League North or South than it is to win the Shropshire County League.

Two "issues" with that:

a) How do you know that for sure? There will never be enough of a sample size to prove it one way or the other

b) If you apply that at what was Step 7, why not apply it higher up. For instance it may be harder to finish third in the Wessex League than win the Hellenic League (leagues taken at random) so why treat those two the same?
 

chienmort

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The strength of a league is important but the only way to know the strength of a league is to allow promotion and see how the promoted teams perform. The crucial test is not how the Champions perform but those prompted through any playoffs. Of course the case of Blackfield and Langley shows where a benefactor's money can distort things. With backing they were promoted beyond what the club could sustain (if they did not have the extra funds). When the funds stopped they took demotion to two leagues lower, probably closer to what the club could reasonably aspire to.

I understand that the money has now hopped a few miles to AFC Totton, we can only watch to see what happens there.

Another club local to me, Weymouth achieved back-to-back promotiions via the National League Playoffs last season, Unlike Blackfield and Langley, Weymouth are a well organised club without a sugar daddy and altough two jumps in two years may prove too much, they are better equipped than Blackfield and Langley to survive at their new elevated level.

Back to the subject in hand, the strength of leagues does vary over time and I have often looked at the league below Poole and thought, thank goodness we are not trying to get promotion from there this season. There will be a gradual realignment of every league in the pyramid and with new leagues being formed that the natural realignment sometimes goes a bit wonky.
 

Sarumio Whites

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I'd have much less of an issue with a Hellenic 2 side being accepted for promotion to step 6 than taking anyone from a lower division of a league which is at step 7 - I don't think those should be considered. Sure, the fully fledged step 7 leagues should have automatic rights for one place but if vacancies remain after that, then suitable Hellenic 2 clubs are reasonable to consider.

But then what you are saying there is that A Hellenic Div Two side should be picked for promotion ahead of a second placed applicant in an actual NLS Feeder Division? That doesn't seem right at all.

Lets say Clay Cross Town win the CML North and Dinnington Town narrowly finish second and both have applied. You'd promote Southam United from the Hellenic Two over Dinnington? Really don't agree with that!
 

paulh66

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I expect they'll seek to apply the existing regulations and promote no more than one per feeder league, plus clubs from outside the NLS only if they meet the defined criteria, one of which is exceptional circumstances. Bear in mind the exceptional circumstance criterion is in addition to a requirement for there to be a vacancy, so elevating these clubs just to top up numbers wouldn't in itself cut it.

If all of that leaves vacancies in the restructured pyramid for 21/2, I don't see it as a problem, they'll simply be filled over time as grassroots clubs gear themselves up to progress in future.

However if, for whatever reason, additonal promotions beyond the above do take place next summer, I'd imagine the clubs would be drawn exclusively from the NLS feeders.
 

Brightside

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Two "issues" with that:

a) How do you know that for sure? There will never be enough of a sample size to prove it one way or the other

b) If you apply that at what was Step 7, why not apply it higher up. For instance it may be harder to finish third in the Wessex League than win the Hellenic League (leagues taken at random) so why treat those two the same?

A) I understand that it is difficult to know for certain, but I think it'd be quite sensible to give preference to NLS feeder league that cover larger populations and have more leagues and teams underneath it.

For instance the Shropshire County League has 14 teams and covers a county of approx 300,000

Hampshire on the other hand has population of 1,800,000 and has the following teams (I believe)

Hampshire Premier League Senor & Division 1 (28 teams)
Aldershot & District League Senior & Division 1 (20 teams)
Basingstoke & District League Division 1 & 2 (19 teams)
Isle of Wight League Division 1 & 2 (27 teams)
Southampton Saturday League Premier & Senior (20 teams)

Why should the teams at the top of the Hampshire Premier League set-up be treated the same as the teams at the top of the Shropshire County League?

If there are spaces at Step 6 and multiple applicants, why not promote 1 from Shropshire & 5 from Hampshire?

B) Steps 2 to Steps 6 are a little different as the teams are pooled, it obviously doesn't mean they are of equal strength due to imbalances from below but there are certainly smaller differences than NLS Feeder leagues down. By promoting more from NLS Feeder League where there are multiple compliant clubs this should start to equalise the standards.
 

BDA_85

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Have the FA announced that they are accepting applications from NLS teams?
In addition to those that applied in 2019/20 that will roll over to 2020/21, I expect there to be more new applicants this season.
 

buncranaboy

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A) I understand that it is difficult to know for certain, but I think it'd be quite sensible to give preference to NLS feeder league that cover larger populations and have more leagues and teams underneath it.

For instance the Shropshire County League has 14 teams and covers a county of approx 300,000

Hampshire on the other hand has population of 1,800,000 and has the following teams (I believe)

Hampshire Premier League Senor & Division 1 (28 teams)
Aldershot & District League Senior & Division 1 (20 teams)
Basingstoke & District League Division 1 & 2 (19 teams)
Isle of Wight League Division 1 & 2 (27 teams)
Southampton Saturday League Premier & Senior (20 teams)

Why should the teams at the top of the Hampshire Premier League set-up be treated the same as the teams at the top of the Shropshire County League?

If there are spaces at Step 6 and multiple applicants, why not promote 1 from Shropshire & 5 from Hampshire?

B) Steps 2 to Steps 6 are a little different as the teams are pooled, it obviously doesn't mean they are of equal strength due to imbalances from below but there are certainly smaller differences than NLS Feeder leagues down. By promoting more from NLS Feeder League where there are multiple compliant clubs this should start to equalise the standards.
Are you saying Isle of Wight is part of Hampshire ? That'll come as a shock to anyone born after 1974 !
 

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