Step 5 to 4 promotion/relegation update

Thursday 16 Mar 2023

Subject to FA Council approval, the Inter-Step Play-Offs currently in place at Steps 4 and 5 of the National League System (NLS) are to be replaced after the 2022/23 season.

The change will see the introduction of a traditional four-team Play-Off in each of the sixteen Step 5 divisions – thus guaranteeing a second promotion place from Step 5 to Step 4, subject to Clubs meeting the eligibility criteria which includes an independent ground grading assessment. 

At the end of the 2023/24 season, this will mean that an additional 16 Clubs will be guaranteed promotion from Step 5 to Step 4 (32 Clubs in total), with the number of Clubs relegated from each of the eight Step 4 divisions to remain as two in order to increase the divisional size at Step 4 to 22 Clubs per division. The resulting 16 vacancies at Step 5 will be filled by only relegating one Club per Step 5 division, as opposed to two.

From the 2024/25 season, it is intended that the number of Clubs automatically relegated from each of the eight Step 4 divisions to Step 5 will increase from two to four, two Clubs from each of the sixteen Step 5 divisions will continue to be promoted to Step 4 (one automatic and one via the Play-Off) and the number of clubs automatically relegated from each Step 5 division will revert to two.

These changes reflect a long-term aim of The FA to create consistency at each Step level of the NLS pyramid.

By FA Staff