It’s well known throughout the non league game that the end of this season will see another re-organisation of the English Football Pyramid. As part of the changes twenty-six clubs will be promoted from Step 5 divisions across the country.
As there are fourteen Step 5 divisions across England this means fourteen champions and the twelve best second placed sides will be promoted into Step 4 leagues. We’ve written at length about this here.
However, in the world of non league football things are never as straightforward as they may seem. It may be that more than twenty-six clubs will be promoted. This is because of two recent developments.
The merger of Ossett Town AFC and Ossett Albion FC
Both Ossett Town and Ossett Albion play in Northern League Division One (a Step 4 league) and have taken the decision to merge this summer and become, rather unimaginatively, Ossett United. This means there will be an extra space at Step 4 for another promoted club from Step 5.
The possible demise of Thurrock FC
Last week Thurrock FC of the Isthmian Premier (Step 3) sadly announced that they would not be competing next season. The owner wishes to sell the club, and manager Mark Stimson revealed to the local press that there “would be no Thurrock FC next season”.
What does this mean?
If the merger of the Ossett clubs goes ahead and Thurrock choose not to compete next season it’s very likely that two more Step 5 sides will be promoted into Step 4 to fill the void. Although this is complicated slightly if Thurrock or one of the Ossett clubs finishes in a relegation spot!
The possibility of all Step 5 divisions promoting two teams is unlikely to affect the Hellenic Premier League too much as second placed side in the Hellenic Premier League is likely to have an excellent points per game ratio and would probably be promoted anyway. Thatcham Town currently have the highest points per game ratio of any 2nd placed club in the fourteen Step 5 divisions.
Where it becomes very interesting is if a third club in Step 4 or above were to drop out of the league (for financial reasons or otherwise). Then it is possible the club that finished in third place with the best points per game average at Step 5 could be promoted. There’s no reason that this team couldn’t come from the Hellenic League.
While this may seem an attractive proposition for Bracknell Town as they attempt to chase down Highworth and Thatcham it seems like a very unlikely route to promotion. Finishing in the top two in the Hellenic Premier League is a far more obvious way of securing Step 4 football. However football (especially non-league football) is a funny old game and you never know what will happen in the period of time affectionately known as “the AGM Cup”.
Main image: Adam Cornell and TJ Bohane by Richard Claypole.