As we rapidly approach the business end of the season, a common question put to us is “How many teams will be promoted and relegated from the Hellenic League Premier Division?”.
With that in mind, Darrell has had a look at the permutations at both ends of the Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division table.
Promotion from Hellenic Premier Division to the Southern League
Usually it’s only the winner who goes up with all fourteen of the step 5 leagues promoting one team. This year is different with the creation of an extra division at step 3 and an extra division at step 4 and means that 26 teams instead of 14 teams will be promoted from step 5.
What it all means is that for one year only 12 of the 14 step 5 runners-up will also be promoted decided on a points-per-game (PPG) basis. The Hellenic League currently looks odds on to promote two teams.
Highworth Town and Thatcham Town who occupy the top two spots are favourites for promotion having played 32 and 31 games respectively.
Fifth placed Bracknell Town are also in the mix courtesy of their six games in hand but would need to win all of them. They’ve had a very good FA Vase run and still feature in both of their Hellenic cups so it’s a big ask.
Third placed Wantage Town have a very slim chance of finishing in the top two but it’s very unlikely.
Prediction: Thatcham Town to win the Hellenic Premier Division with Highworth Town also getting promoted in second place.
Relegation from the Southern League into the Hellenic Premier Division
Bishops Cleeve are currently bottom of the Evo-Stik Southern League West and find themselves ten points adrift so relegation from step 4 to step 5 is highly likely.
Not all step 5 leagues will receive a relegated side from step 4 as only the six bottom sides at step 4 will be relegated.
Of all of the teams currently in a step 4 relegation place, the Hellenic League looks the best fit for them versus other step 5 leagues.
Prediction: Bishops Cleeve to be relegated into the Hellenic Premier Division.
Relegation from Hellenic Premier Division into Division One
Firstly, we are hearing but it’s not confirmed that instead of two step 6 divisions next year (Division One East and Division One West) that the Hellenic League may have one step 6 and one step 7 division instead.
This is due to the FA’s announcement in the past that any club not meeting a certain ground grading would be relegated from their step 6 division and although the FA deferred the mass relegations, it looks likely to be enforced this Summer.
All of the step 6 Hellenic teams without the ground grading would be placed into the new step 7 division.
Regardless of whether this is true or not, the Hellenic Premier Division carried four relegation places and has typically been two relegated into D1E and two relegated into D1W.
It’s very rare that four teams are relegated and often the fourth bottom and third bottom teams are reprieved with the teams in promotion places in D1E and D1W unable to come up.
That said, we are expecting four teams to be relegated this year.
Basement side Burnham have looked the most likely all season to be relegated although the appointment of new manager Paul Shone and his new recruits has given the Bucks side a fighting chance.
Woodley United, Highmoor Ibis and Lydney Town occupy the other three relegation places with Fairford Town just outside the botton four.
Lydney do have lots of games in hand with several at home (not an easy place to get to) so we expect them to amass enough points. Burnham could climb but we think Lydney will be able to stay above them.
Prediction: Burnham (17th), Highmoor Ibis (18th), Fairford Town (19h) and Woodley United (20th) to get relegated.
Promotion from Hellenic League D1E and D1W into the Premier Division
The league rules allow for the top two sides to be promoted from D1E and D1W but will allow the third placed team to be promoted if they meet the ground grading for step 5 and either of the top two sides do now.
We expect Penn & Tylers Green to win D1E for the third year in a row but without floodlights (and their struggles to get them through planing is well documented elsewhere) they are unable to be promoted.
Bicester Town are currently in second and as they groundshare at Ardley United they do have the ground grading to come up.
Likewise, Virginia Water are currently in third place and groundshare with Premier Division side Windsor so also have the ground grading to come up.
We don’t have confirmation that either side will continue to groundshare next year but assuming both do then promotion is on the cards for both.
In D1W Ardley United are nailed on to win the division and to be promoted.
North Leigh United in second place are unable to be promoted as their first team play at step 4 and the FA stipulate that reserve sides have to play two divisions lower than their first team so United are not able to progress above step 6 until the first team progress above step 5.
Brackley Town and Oxford City both play at step 2 which is why Brackley Town Saints and Oxford City Nomads are able to play at step 5.
However, the third placed team is Shrivenham who are a former Premier Division side and they are able to be promoted along with Easington Sports (4th) so we’d expect one of them to go up alongside Ardley.
Prediction: Bicester Town and Virginia Water to be promoted from D1E, Ardley United and Shrivenham to be promoted from D1W.
Lateral Movement from another Step 5 League
With two sides getting promoted from the Hellenic Premier and only one side (we think Bishops Cleeve) coming in you would expect the side who finishes fourth bottom to get reprieved.
We don’t think that will happen however due to lateral movements.
Every year, the FA warn every club of the possibility of being laterally moved from their existing league into another league of the same level. Ahead of this current season, Windsor were laterally moved from the Combined Counties League into the Hellenic League.
There are currently 301 clubs playing at step 5. Only three leagues including the Hellenic League have a twenty team step 5 division with all of the others having 21, 22, 23 or even 24 sides in the case of the Eastern Counties League.
The FA have announced that all step 5 divisions will have twenty team next year.
It’s very likely that instead of the fourth bottom side being reprieved that the Hellenic League will be told by the FA that they will receive a laterally moved team.
Prediction: Holmer Green to be laterally transferred from the Spartan South Midlands League.
I must reiterate that this is all best guess by us and we have not spoken to any of the leagues or clubs involved and to a certain extent, the leagues themselves don’t know exactly what the FA Leagues Committee will do.
Next year’s Hellenic Premier Division would however look like this if our predictions are true:
- Abingdon United
- Ardley United (promoted from D1W)
- Ascot United
- Bicester Town (promoted from D1E)
- Bishops Cleeve (relegated from Southern League)
- Brackley Town Saints
- Bracknell Town
- Brimscombe & Thrupp
- Flackwell Heath
- Holmer Green (laterally transferred from South Midlands League)
- Lydney Town
- Oxford City Nomads
- Royal Wootton Bassett Town
- Shrivenham (promoted from D1W)
- Tuffley Rovers
- Virginia Water (promoted from D1E)
- Wantage Town