WORCESTER CITY will play at Step 5 next season after resigning from the National League – while The Football Association have confirmed who will take charge of the new Step 3 and 4 divisions from 2018-19.
City informed the FA and league in March of their intention to resign from Step 2 in order to be more sustainable, and asked to go into a lower league.
FA regulations state if a club resigns they must drop down two tiers — and because they finished in the National League North relegation places, the club were placed at Step 5 for next season.
The knock-on effect means reprieves for two clubs at Step 3 and Step 4 based on points per game.
Harrow Borough will remain in the Isthmian League Premier Division, while Ware have another chance in the Isthmian League Division One North.
In all there are seven lateral movements across the provisional club allocations for next season.
The headline is Gloucester City, who switch from the National League North to the National League South on account of three northern-based teams – York City, Southport and North Ferriby – suffering relegation from Non-League’s top flight.
The Tigers have spent eight years in Step 2’s northern division following promotion through the Southern League Premier play-offs in 2008-09.
At Step 4, AFC Rushden & Diamonds have been shifted back to the Southern League Division One Central after a season in the Northern Premier League Division One South.
Kidlington move from the Central division to the Southern League Division One South & West, while Potters Bar Town leave the same league for the Isthmian Division One North.
The final three clubs making a sideways step are Phoenix Sports, Thamesmead Town and VCD Athletic. The trio have been placed in the Isthmian League Division One South having spent this season in the North division.
All 14 Step 5 leagues have promoted a club, with FA Vase finalists South Shields in the NPL Division One North and Cleethorpes Town in NPL Division One South.
As ever, the allocations are provisional and will need to be ratified at each league’s AGM next month.
Laurence Jones, The FA’s Head of League and Clubs Services, said: “As always with allocations we work really hard to get the geographical pieces right. However hard you work there’s always going to be one or two outlying clubs, but it’s all done with genuine intentions.
“The vast majority of movements – up, down or lateral – happen organically. I think the leagues have a great constitution for next season. Looking across the four steps there are going to be some cracking games at all levels.”
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed the Southern League will run the new Step 3 division and the Isthmian League will take charge of the new Step 4 division.
The additional divisions are being introduced from the 2018-19 season as part of the FA’s bid to cut both travelling times and the costs associated across the National League System. It will mean Step 3 runs with four divisions, while Step 4 will have seven.
The Northern Premier League submitted an application to take on both divisions, while the United Counties League put forward an official bid to have the Step 4 division under their umbrella.
But an independent panel chose the Southern and Isthmian proposals and the next stage of the process will now begin as the FA work out what footprint the divisions will take.
A decision will also be made before the start of next season as to how relegation will work in order to shuffle the numbers.
Jones added: “The FA Leagues Committee met on Thursday and, after a very detailed process which involved the leagues who had made applications to run the new Step 3 and 4 divisions presenting their plans to an independent panel, the decision has been taken that the Southern League will administer the new Step 3 division and the Isthmian League will run the new Step 4.
“That will come into effect from season 2018-19. The rationale behind introducing a new division at Step 3 and 4 is to look at geography of the National League System to reduce travelling time where possible and in doing that try to assist clubs with cost control.
“The Football Association will now work with the two leagues to make sure the right structures and right levels of representation are in place. We’ll start looking at the landscape, but in terms of club allocation nothing can move forward until this time next year.
“The process has been very controlled from the outset. The next stage is now to start really planning how we’re going to embed these two new divisions into the National League System.”