FA scrap Step 5 proposals

THE Football Association has abandoned plans to restructure the number of leagues at Step 5 level across the country.

The FA Leagues Committee has announced that the proposals to reduce the number of Step 5 leagues from 14 to 12 with effect from the 2013/14 season have been scrapped.

The proposal was deemed to be “unworkable” and has now been withdrawn.

There was widespread concern among Premier Division clubs in the Eastern Counties League when the proposals were announced earlier this year.

The proposals would have split the Premier Division in half, with seven clubs - three from Essex and four from Suffolk - going into a new London North East Division along with clubs in the Essex Senior League.

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The remaining 14 clubs would have joined forces with those in the United Counties League to form a new Eastern Division.

The proposals would have led to a large increase in travelling for the majority of clubs, and the depth of feeling was such that the Eastern Counties League put forward an alternative suggestion.

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Phil Knight, chief executive of Suffolk FA, said of the announcement: “Whilst understanding the need to address the restructuring of Step 5/6 of the pyramid, I am pleased the review group has taken heed of the concerns of local clubs and leagues.

“Suffolk FA will continue to work with our clubs and leagues to ensure that ground grading commitments are met thereby securing a sustainable future for our senior clubs.”

The FA statement in full is as follows:

The review group was established by the Leagues Committee last year to look at the possible reduction in the number of Step 5 divisions from 14 to 12 from the beginning of the 2013/14 season.

A number of meetings and consultations were held with leagues, clubs and County Football Associations to take views into account and to decide the best way forward.

As a result, the review group has compiled a final report which was agreed by the Leagues Committee today (Thursday, 10th May).

The recommendations are:

?That the process of reducing Step 5 leagues from 14 to 12 was deemed unworkable and the initial suggestion was withdrawn.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 2013/2014.

?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 2012/2013 clubs would be placed into ‘feeder pools’ and allocated the most appropriate geographical division.

?That, with effect from Season 2013/2014, the Premier Divisions of the Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Football Leagues (Step 3) be increased to 24 clubs.

?That, with effect from Season 2013/2014 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 3 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 2013/2014, the process is to be agreed. In future seasons, to stimulate promotion, consideration would be given to clubs that finish in 1st, 2nd or 3rd 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 2012/2013 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.

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