The Non-League Football Paper

Whole new ball game! Steps 3-7 set for major FA re-structure

NEW DIVISIONS at Step 3 and 4 have been agreed in principle by the Football Association in a major shake-up of the National League System structure.

Step 3 will run with a fourth division, while there will be an additional one at Non-League’s fourth tier as football’s governing body look to reduce costs and travelling times.

Currently, the Isthmian Premier, Southern Premier  and Northern Premier League Premier divisions have 24 teams.

Under the new proposals that number is likely to be reduced to 22, with Step 4 leagues lowered to 20.

The footprint of the new divisions and who runs them has yet to be decided, as well as how promotion and relegation will work.

The FA also want Step 5 leagues to each have 20 clubs and they are planning two new leagues at Step 6 – one in the Essex area, where there is currently no provision, and the other in the north-west.

They are also planning two Step 7 leagues in Sussex, one East and one West, and a Step 7 division to plug the gap in Lincolnshire.

As well as reducing clubs’ expenditure on getting to games, the FA hope it will create a more natural flow through the Pyramid and provide a clear pathway for participation through the System on a region-by-region basis.

The proposals had been on hold while the EFL’s Whole Game Solution idea was debated. The controversial plans included moving to five divisions of 20 in the Football League that would likely have seen some National League clubs cherry-picked, and the others effectively relegated a tier.

But when those plans were withdrawn in the middle of November, the FA immediately picked theirs back up.

They were waved through in principle at an FA Council meeting at Wembley on Wednesday, meaning the Leagues and Clubs department can start working on the finer details.

The next step is consultation with the leagues to draft the regulations for next season in order to rejig the numbers for the new structure to be implemented for 2018-19.

Non-League Structure

  • New division at Step 3 and 4

  • ‘Ownership’ and footprint of new divisions yet to be decided

  • Two new leagues/divisions at Step 6 – one in Essex area (no current provision) and another division towards the North West (footprint yet to be decided)

  • Two Step 7 leagues in Sussex – 1 East, 1 West. One new Step 7 division in Lincolnshire

  • Numbers of clubs per division likely to change to:


Step 1













16 max*

* Leagues Committee has flexibility dependant on all relevant factors


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3 thoughts on “Whole new ball game! Steps 3-7 set for major FA re-structure

  1. graham moore

    the national league sth & nth should have 24 teams to bring them in line with national premier which can be done plus you could make a natinal lge midland division with 24 teams
    then the southern ryman northern lges have 22 teams
    step five lges have 20-22 teams
    step six lges have 18-22 teams
    step seven lges have 16-20 teams

    • Jake

      20 teams per league should be enough for every division and level. That’s 38 league matches per season, and with cup competitions should yield an average of 40 to 42 matches per season, reducing mid-week matches.

  2. Aksel Duus

    Good decision. And then follow up with completing the pyramid, with another step 4 league and two more leagues on step 5 to make it 1-2-4-8-16 with 2 up and 4 down.


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