A definitive look at step 5 promotion and relegation




It might be goals that make a football match, but it’s the delight and heartbreak of promotion and relegation that really make a football season.

The trouble is, at step 5 of the English Football Pyramid it can all get a bit muddled what with ground grading and 14 league champions going in to seven divisions.

So Football in Bracknell thought we’d ask those in the know what the process for possible promotion and relegation at step 5 in the 2018/19 season would be.

While we know our focus is largely on the Hellenic League and Combined Counties League, because of the way promotion and relegation will work (bear with us, you’ll see) it’s pretty much applicable across the rest of the country.

Going up

There are a couple of scenarios here for clubs going up from the Hellenic League Premier Division (or any other step 5 league).

Chief among them being that until last season when an FA league restructure saw multiple sides promoted, clubs had to apply for promotion before Christmas, paying a fee without knowing if they would actually finish top or not.

Hellenic League chairman Bob Dalling explains this one. He says: “An application for promotion from clubs at Steps 5, 6 and 7 is no longer required. It is deemed that as they are National League Clubs, that they WILL accept promotion, provided that they hold the appropriate ground grade.”

Make note of the capitalised WILL. We’ll come back to that.

So can reserve teams go up?

According to FA rules and regulations, at least the last time we checked, a clubs reserve side must always be at least two divisions below it’s senior or first team.

That’s complicated a little bit in the Hellenic which has it’s own reserve divisions which are known as Division 2 East and Division 2 West. These technically aren’t part of the pyramid, which is why Newent Town are in Division 1 West and the reserves are in Division 2 West.

The really interesting example here – and the purpose of this segment – is Brackley Town Saints who at the time of writing top the Premier Division and at the end of the 2014/15 season changed their name from Brackley Town Development.

We spoke to team manager Gordon Kille who said: “The simple answer is yes. We are a separate club to Brackley Town. Although many links are shared with them, we are as far as the FA are concerned, and they’re the ones that matter, a separate entity and eligible for promotion.”

Penalties for not going up

Now for that bit about how clubs WILL accept promotion from Bob above. He says that the FA’s stance is: ‘Those that do not accept, will be relegated – provided that they hold the appropriate ground grade.

So, you could finish as champions of your step five league next season, decide it might be to much of a risk to the club for financial or volunteer reasons and end up being relegated a division.

That’s what happened to Wessex Premier Division runners-up Andover Town last season. They now find themselves in Division 1.

Relegation matters

At this stage it’d be very easy to copy and paste this line from Bob Dalling’s email to us (so we will): “The whole issue is handled by The FA direct, with no involvement from the National League System (NLS) Leagues.”

There are things to flag up though, both step 5 and 6 division’s are supposed to have 20 teams in each. The Hellenic Premier currently has 19 after Oxford City Nomads withdrew on the eve of the season and the Combined Counties Division One has 18 – in part due to the removal of AC London.

Coming up from step 6?

Football in Bracknell’s step 6 correspondent Rob Davies has the low down on possible promotion. Unsurprisingly, it’s no longer a case of two up, two down!

Writing in his Combined Counties League Division One mid-season review, he said: “For the first time the FA has decided to take control of promotion and relegation between Step 5 and 6 rather than leaving it to the discretion of the league.

“This means that only the first placed sides at Step 6 are guaranteed promotion with 9 second placed sides from the 19 leagues going up based on the best points per game.

“This reduces the chances for sides at the top of the Combined Counties Division One who are used to having three places to fight for.”

He adds, in the Hellenic, with it’s two regionalised East and West divisions, only the winners are guaranteed promotion.

And if new sides want to join the pyramid?

Dalling says: “Clubs currently outside the NLS must apply to The FA for entry to an NLS level.”

This would presumably include clubs in the Hellenic’s Division 2 East and West tables, but clubs in the Thames Valley Premier League are IN the pyramid.


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