Berks County's Tommy Nower. Photo supplied by Berks County FC.

What’s happening with step 7 promotion in 2019/20

There is space for 40 clubs across the country to take promotion to step 6 next season
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Berks County's Tommy Nower. Photo supplied by Berks County FC.

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Ahead of the 2020/21 season, the Football Association is restructuring the non league football pyramid with new divisions created at step 4 and step 5.

The restructure will also see the number of divisions at step 6 reduce from 20 this season, to 17 with those clubs helping to fill the new divisions higher up.

As part of the restructure though, the FA has confirmed that the bottom two clubs in each of the 20 step 6 divisions are liable to relegation, meaning there is the opportunity for up to 40 step 7 clubs to take a step up.

Step 7 clubs wishing to make the move up the pyramid had to get an application in by the end of 2019, with over 80 clubs across the country showing an interest, including Berks County of the Thames Valley Premier League.

It is important to note that at present, all club allocations are provisional.

What’s the criteria for promotion?

Ellis Woods and Lee Simpson.
Berks County FC managers Ellis Woods and Lee Simpson.

A suitable ground grading is required for promotion to step 6, which the Swords Ryeish Green Sports Hub ground does not currently meet – though the club have confirmed they are working towards it.

As of 2019, an ‘H’ grade was the minimum requirement for step 6 which included things like security of tenure, an enclosed boundary, pitch perimeter barrier and club house. You can read up on all the different ground gradings here.

As well as a suitable ground grade and application, the most recent document published by the FA says that any club wishing achieve promotion must finish first at the end of the this season.

However: “If the club finishing in 1st position does not wish to be promoted or fails to meet the entry criteria then the club finishing in 2nd position will be eligible for promotion. If the club in 2nd position does not seek promotion or fails to meet the entry criteria then clubs down to 5th position may be considered for promotion provided that they meet the appropriate entry criteria. Clubs finishing below 5th position may not be considered for promotion and, for this season only, more than one club may be considered from each League.”

There are 46 step 7 divisions across the country with applications from teams in 35 of those divisions. Over 80 clubs met the December 31st deadline for getting on the list meaning there are multiple applications in some divisions (Berks County were the only Thames Valley Premier League club to apply). It is therefore almost certain that points per game will come in to play.

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