This coming summer sees a big shake up of Non-League football, the first major restructure since 2004. Non-League football is a pyramid, with the National League at Step 1, National League North and South and Step 2, with each subsequent Step getting narrower in area until you reach Step 7, which is pretty much County level of football.
An FA review over the last couple of years has identified two key things. The first is a need for two new leagues at Step 3 and Step 4, which will roughly be based around the Midlands. These new leagues are to iron out geographical anomalies and to cut down on travelling costs and time for fans, players and officials of clubs. The FA have decided to appoint the Southern League and the Ryman League to manage these leagues.
The second is to reduce the number of teams in Step 3 down to 22 clubs per division, and to reduce the number of teams in Step 4 to Step 6 to 20 teams per division. This is to reduce the number of games played at our level across a season, where it is not uncommon for a team to play 50 games in a season, far more than Football League teams play.
All this means is that the 276 clubs currently playing in Steps 1 to 4 will increase by 20 to 296 when the two new divisions kick-off in August 2018. To achieve its aim, only the bottom clubs in the current Step 3 divisions will be relegated at the end of season 2017-2018. In addition, only the clubs finishing last in the six divisions currently operating at Step 4 will be relegated next season. This does mean that 26 are required from Step 5.
So to get the allocated number of teams at Step 4, the FA have ruled that Champion clubs in each of the 14 Step 5 league will be promoted. Previously you had to apply for promotion and then meet ground grading requirements, criteria that have been relaxed for this season. You win your league, you go up.
That leaves 12 teams required from the 14 Step 5 leagues, and this is where the fun starts! The 12 best runners up across Step 5 will also be promoted this season. To decide who is “the best”, the FA are going to use a Points Per Game average, so that teams in all leagues have an equal opportunity to achieve that elusive promotion.
Here at Podcast Towers we love a stat or two. Therefore we thought we would produce a table that looks at the current best three teams in each division based on points per games. We thought we would do it this way as at this stage of the season, teams may not necessarily be in the top three at present due to having games in hand on other teams.
Here are the standings at the start of November 2017. The teams in red are the current teams who would be promoted if the season finished on that day. Those in second spot with the lowest PPG across Step 5 were Bedfont Sports of the Combined Counties League and Haywards Heath Town of the Couthern Combination, and they would both miss out as the FA are only promoting the 12 best second placed teams.
It is also interesting to note that also missing out would be teams such as Hanley Town and Deeping Rovers who are third in the PPG averages in their league. This is because a maximum of two teams per Step 5 league will be promoted, so those with a lower PPG in a different Step 5 league would be promoted ahead of them!
This is just a snapshot as things stand at present. We will revisit this again more regularly towards the end of the season so that we can see where things are panning out.
Here are the standings at the start of February 2018. Again the teams in red are the current teams who would be promoted if the season finished on that day
It is interesting that in the three months that we did this last, things have changed quite a bit. The Southern Combination would still have missed out with their second place best PPG team now on 2.04. But the Combined Counties League had improved theirs to 2.14 which is in the best 12, with the Southern Counties East League now being the other to miss out.
Looking closer to home, Charnock Richard were still the second best team in the NWCFL on a PPG basis, but their average was now at 2.16 compared to 2.5 at the start of November. This still means that the NWCFL would promote two teams, but the league is less comfortable than it was of doing this!
Here are the standings at the start of March 2018. Again the teams in red are the current teams who would be promoted if the season finished on that day.
Things have changed dramatically over the last month. As things stand on a PPG basis, the NWCFL has slipped to 13th out of the 14 Step 5 Leagues, meaning that the league would only promote one team at the end of this current season to Step 4. This has a big knock on effect though in our league, as under the current FA rules, that would mean that the NWCFL Premier Division would have to relegate FIVE teams at the end of this season in order to get to the required 20 clubs next season!
It is worth noting that there is little separating the NWCFL though from the Southern Counties East League, with both the second best PPG teams seemingly on 2.04 in the above table. However Whitstable Town have 49 points from 24 games giving an average of 2.041667 whereas Charnock Richard (and indeed Runcorn Town) have 57 points from 28 games, giving an average of 2.035714. Its the smallest of margins at present!
The other Step 5 league that would miss out on two promoted at present is still the Southern Combination, whose second placed team is on 2.0 PPG average at the moment.
We will review matters at the start of April once again, at which point we will update this post on a weekly basis until the end of the season.