The Hellenic Football League season is upon us but there are a few things to commit to memory before the big kick off – from promotion places to cup runs – there are a few issues unique to the 2017/18 season.
Two chances of promotion from the Hellenic Premier
The recent announcement by the Football Association that two new divisions will be created at step 3 and 4 of the non league pyramid means an increased chance of promotion for teams at step 5 – for one season only.
The FA have confirmed that only the bottom sides at step 4 will be relegated at the end of the 2017/18 season meaning an opportunity for 26 sides to win promotion from Step 5 (Hellenic Premier Division level) next season – that’s an increase on the usual 14 of 12 promotion places available.
In short this means that with nearly double the number of places on offer, it’s quite likely that a runners up spot (as Bracknell Town achieved this season) will be enough for promotion to step 4 and should be done on a points per game ratio.
Meaningful matches against Football League clubs
There have been changes to the Berks & Bucks County Cups which means step five clubs will compete in the Senior Cup this coming season.
What that means firstly is that Bracknell and Woodley United won’t be able to defend trophies they won at the end of last season. Instead the Robins, Moles, Kestrels and Ascot will all compete for the Senior Cup against the likes of Maidenhead United, Wycombe Wanderers and MK Dons.
Whether Reading can be persuaded to enter a side remains to be seen.
A shot at a Wembley final
The FA Cup gets most of the headlines and a good run in the worlds oldest knockout competition is great for PR, putting a club on the map and for the coffers.
Realistically though, a step 5 or 6 club is not going to get passed the Second Qualifying Round (it does happen – we know) let alone a shot at Wembley.
The FA Vase though really does.
The Vase covers sides from step five down (the Hellenic Premier Division is step 5) and with Bracknell Town in the top two and Binfield top eight there should be a chance of progress toward a final at the national stadium.
A reality check though, the Vase is traditionally dominated by clubs from the north and no Berkshire side has ever won the competition let alone reached a final. Ascot United are the best performing side locally having twice reached the quarter finals in 2013 and 2015.
Suspensions within 7 days
The FA have issued the following clarification on player suspensions.
Following any case that has an automatic suspension (Red Card, 5/10/15 cautions) all suspensions will commence 7 days from the date of the offence. The onus is on the Player and Club to ensure the suspension is served irrespective whether paperwork is received or not.
Promotion and relegation
One of the more frustrating aspects of step 5 and 6 football is the seemingly arbitrary way clubs get promoted and relegated.
The Premier Division looks like being a bit more straightforward this season as discussed above, but any club wishing to be considered still has to apply to the FA for a step 4 promotion by the end of November.
At the other end of the table it’s a bit more complicated. In 2015/16 three teams were relegated while last season it was two – and only bottom side Henley Town were relegated properly after Ardley United took voluntary demotion.
The system is likely to stay a bit fuzzy with dependencies based on how many teams in Division 1’s East and West are eligible for promotion (Penn & Tylers Green have won Division 1 East the last two seasons but don’t have the facilities to go up – for example). Frustrating for teams battling against relegation and who may not find out their fate until the league AGM.
A lot of derby matches
It’s a bit front loaded in terms of league fixtures, but with East Berkshire being one of the biggest areas for supporter attendance in the Hellenic League we’ve had a look at when Bracknell, Woodley, Ascot and Binfiled will meet in the Premier Division in the coming season.
It should be 12 great fixtures – and you can see them here.
We’ll continue to cover our local clubs in as much detail as we can. You can help two with your contributions so whether you video a goal, take a great picture or just have an opinion on the match you went to get in touch via our contribute page, or you can submit content directly on our new Whats App group.
Fancy getting involved in a few away trips? We have a new ‘away days’ section which will be added to week by week with all the trips your club will make this season.