The English Football Pyramid is currently in the midst of a huge restructure and the latest news from the FA is that there will be a new step 5 division covering the West London and Thames Valley area.
In an in depth interview with the Non League Paper at the weekend, the Football Associations Head of National League System Laurence Jones, National League System manager Matt Edkins, Leagues Committee chairman Ray Lewis and vice chairman Mark Frost revealed the new division would be in place for the 2020/21 season.
There’s an awful lot in the interview – from promotion and relegation as well as an awful lot on what’s going to happen at step 7 (details on how to read the full piece at the bottom of this article) but we’ve tried to pull out the bits that will affect the likes of Ascot United, Binfield and Windsor in the next two seasons.
The division is one of two new step 5 divisions – equivalent level of the Hellenic League Premier – to be introduced (the other is in the Midlands) along with an eighth step 4 division.
*Speculation* The area marked on the map produced by the NLP looks to cover the M4 corridor which is very exciting to us. It could mean – promotion and relegation not withstanding a hyper local and competitive division with derbies week in week out. The challenge is on for the step 6 sides like Wokingham & Emmbrook, Woodley United, Holyport and Sandhurst Town to meet the challenge!
Who will run the new division?
The new division won’t necessarily be run by the Hellenic League. According to Mark Frost, answering a question on ‘can you explain why the new divisions at Step 5 will be focussed on the Midlands and West London/Thames Valley area?’
He said: “The mapping exercise for steps 5 and 6 is for the benefit of the clubs. We’ve done all the work on where the clubs are and taken out the scenario of the existing leagues. We’ve put the groups together and now we’re going back to the leagues to say, ‘Which of these groups would you like to run?’ Our remit is to make sure the clubs play football in the best manner.”
For as long as the Football in Bracknell team has been following the non league game one of the biggest issues for clubs season on season is the different leagues historical boundaries and the attempts to fit clubs in to them.
That the FA appear to have ripped those up is something should be very interesting.
Changes at step 6
In addition the FA plan to make changes at step 6 – equivalent to the Hellenic Division One East – with 20 divisions across the UK in 2019/20, thereafter reduced to 17.
*Speculation* The NLP map would suggest one more season for the current Hellenic League Division 1 East and West setup.
Why is this all happening?
The FA want to create a ‘perfect pyramid’ for the Non League system starting with 1 division – the National League down to 16 at step 5. It would look a little bit like this:
Step 1 – National League (1 division)
Step 2 – National Leagues North and South (2 divisions)
Step 3 – Bostik Premier, Evo Stik Northern and Southern (4 divisions)
Step 4 – Bostik and Evo Stik Northern and Southern Division Ones (8 divisions)
Step 5 – Hellenic, Combined Counties etc (16 divisions)
The aim is to create a true pathway from the bottom to the top, removing geography as an issue and attempting to create a level playing field for clubs to move up and down the leagues. There are further moves to make Step 7 leagues (like the Thames Valley Premier League) ‘the pinnacle’ of county football with obvious pathways in to the Non League System with Step 6 being the introduction to that. We’ll try and explain a bit more about that in another article but in the meantime..
..all hail the THAMES VALLEY (and west London) SUPER LEAGUE!
We can very much recommend reading the full interview in the latest Non League Paper which should still be available in newsagents. Hopefully the full piece will also be posted soon on the NLP website here.