All Change for 2018/19!

1 month ago By Richard Clark

The Football Association have confirmed more details of the planned changes to Steps 3 and 4 of the pyramid for the 2018/19 season.

The changes will come into effect at the end of next season, and will include additional divisions at both Steps, meaning the biggest shake-up of Non-League Football since the Conference (now national League) North and South Divisions came into being in 2004. It follows a long-awaited review of Steps 3 and 4 of the National League System to iron out geographical anomalies, cut down on travelling costs and time for fans, players and officials and encourage more Step 5 clubs to climb the pyramid.

The current Step 3 – consisting of the Premier Divisions of the Evo-Stik NPL, Evo-Stik Southern League and Ryman Isthmian League – will be augmented by a fourth division, which will operate under the auspices of the Southern League. The name of the new division has not yet been confirmed.

The Evo-Stik NPL submitted a bid to the FA to oversee the new division for a three-year term, after which they would relinquish control to a new governing body. However, the FA has decided in favour of the Southern League’s proposal.

At the same time, a new division will also be introduced at Step 4 (one level below the Glassboys as things stand) under the governance of the Isthmian League.

The precise geographical boundaries of the new divisions are yet to be determined, and will depend to some extent on promotions and relegations at the end of 2017/18. However, the changes are likely to see noticeable shifts from the current boundaries, particularly in the Midlands, with the new Step 3 division expected to take up much of the “Greater Midlands” area, possibly stretching into East Anglia, thereby pushing the NPL further North into its “traditional“ territory, and the Southern League further to the South and West, whilst the boundary between the Southern and Isthmian Premier Divisions is also likely to shift to some extent.

Meanwhile, the new Step 4 Division will be located further to the South, given that it will fall under the Isthmian umbrella, but is also expected to mean a “ripple” effect moving the boundaries of several divisions at that level.

A further change will see each of the Step 3 Divisions reduced to 22 teams from the current 24, meaning a total of 88 teams at Step 3 as opposed to 72 under the current structure, whilst all Step 4 divisions will operate with just 20 clubs.

The most significant immediate effect of the changes will see just ONE team relegated from each of the Step 3 divisions at the end of 2018/19, whilst 19 clubs – 13 more than usual - will be promoted from Step 4 to make up the additional numbers required to form the new division. Details of how the additional clubs will be decided are also yet to be confirmed.

Promotion from Step 3 at the end of 2017/18 will be in accordance with current arrangements – each Champion club will be promoted automatically, with a second club promoted via play-offs between the teams finishing second to fifth.

In practical terms the overhaul will mean that the coming campaign will almost certainly be our last as a member of the Evo-Stik NPL. Should Stourbridge not gain promotion to the National League at the end of next season we are virtually guaranteed as one of the southernmost NPL clubs to be returning to the Southern League for 2018/19.

Further down the pyramid, a total of 26 clubs will be promoted from Step 5 (equivalent level to the Midland League in our area), rather than the usual 14 clubs, to make up the required shortfall. As with Step 3, only the bottom club from each existing Step 4 Division will be relegated at the end of next season.

Current Structure

Step 1 – National League (24 clubs)
Step 2 – National League North/South (2 x 22 clubs)
Step 3 – NPL/SL/IL Premier Divisions (3 x 24 clubs)
Step 4 – NPL/SL/IL Lower Divisions (4 x 22 clubs, 2 x 24 clubs)

Total – 276 clubs

Revised structure for 2018/19

Step 1 – National League (24 clubs)
Step 2 – National League North/South (2 x 22 clubs)
Step 3 – NPL/SL/IL Premier Divisions plus “New” Division (4 x 22 clubs)
Step 4 – NPL/SL/IL Lower Divisions plus “New” Division (7 x 20 clubs)

Total – 296 clubs

Updated 09:19 - 1 Jun 2017 by Nigel Gregg

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