The Final Report from the Step 5/6 Review Group was considered at Wembley this week.
At a meeting of The FA Leagues Committee held at Wembley Stadium, the Final Report from the Step 5/6 Review Group, containing a number of recommendations was considered.
By way of background, the Review Group was established by the Leagues Committee in 2011 to look at a possible reduction in the number of Step 5 divisions from 14 to 12 for the commencement of season 2013-14. Following an initial meeting with all competitions in July 2011 there followed an extensive consultation period during which all Step 5/6 competitions were met on an individual basis to seek their views on this matter.
The initial remit of the Group was altered to take into account the feedback from these meetings. In the early part of 2012, the Group held a series of meetings to which all Step 5 leagues, their member clubs and County Football Associations were invited to consider the suggestion for change.
As a result of these meetings the Review Group, taking into account both the feedback from the discussions and correspondence received, complied their Final Report and the following recommendations were agreed by the Leagues Committee.
• That the process of reducing Step 5 leagues from 14 to 12 was deemed unworkable and the initial suggestion withdrawn.
• That, in order to continue to compete at Step 5 of the National League System, ALL clubs must meet the National Ground Grading Category F in FULL by 31 March 2013. Clubs that do not meet these requirements WILL be relegated to an appropriate Step 6 division/competition. In addition, all Leagues must fully comply with the Regulations for the Establishment and Operation of the National League System, Standardised Rules and National Ground Grading Document.
• That all Step 5 divisions must have a minimum of 20 clubs with a maximum of 22 clubs from the commencement of season 2013-14.
• That the Leagues Committee would, in future, in conjunction with the appropriate leagues, manage the promotion/relegation process between Step 5 and Step 6 and that as from the end of season 2012-13 clubs would be placed into “feeder pools” and allocated the most appropriate geographical division.
• That, with effect from Season 2013-14, the Premier Divisions of the Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Football Leagues (Step 3) be increased to 24 clubs.
• That, with effect from Season 2013-14 and in order to create 14 relegation places at Step 4, the Isthmian League Division 1 North and Division 1 South (Step 4) be increased to 24 clubs with each relegating three clubs to Step 5, subject to any club issues arising during or after the completion of the playing season. It was noted that the Northern Premier and Southern Leagues have no desire to increase to 24 clubs for their Step 4 divisions. This will mean that a number of additional clubs will be given the opportunity to be promoted from Step 5 to Step 4 for season 2013-14, the process is to be agreed.
In future seasons, to stimulate promotion, consideration would be given to clubs that finish in first, second or third positions in Step 5 competitions provided that they meet the entry criteria for Step 4. There would, however, be only one club promoted from any Step 5 competition in any season. In addition, it was agreed that at the conclusion of Season 2012-13, the clubs finishing in bottom position in each of the Step 4 divisions would be relegated.
• It was further agreed that discussions should take place with all leagues to look at the possibility that, regardless of any vacancies occurring, the club finishing in the bottom positions in divisions at Steps 1 to 5 of the National League System will be relegated.
• That there remained issues to be addressed at Step 6, not least in the Essex area, and these will be progressed in the coming months.
The Review Group wished to place on record their thanks to all those leagues, clubs, County Football Associations and others that had contributed in any way to the consultation process.
Leagues & Clubs Manager
On behalf of the Leagues Committee