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National League System Re-Structure Update for South West England

Latest League Re-Structure update from The FA for South West England Clubs Step 6&7

National League System Step 6 & 7 – South West England

You will be aware that over the last twelve months discussions have been taking place between the Devon County Football Association, Cornwall County Football Association, South West Peninsula League, Devon & Exeter League and the Football Association as to what would be the best structure to support and develop  senior football in the South West.

We have listed below details of the changes:

National League System

The National League System is a unique pyramid of leagues that links the grassroots game at Step seven to the professional game at Step one. For the pyramid to operate successfully and to provide the fluidity between the various steps  there is  mandatory promotion and relegation through Steps one to six as defined in the National League System regulations.

As a club in the National League System it is important to note that promotion and relegation is to the Step level and not a league as the placement of clubs is the sole responsibility of the Football Association.

All clubs that compete in the National League System must attain the required ground grading criteria for the Step that they play at, failure to do so will result in relegation.

The Football Association has publically stated its vision that by season 2020/21 the National League System will be a “pure pyramid” from Steps one to six based on one division at Step one, two divisions at Step two, four divisions at Step three, eight divisions at Step four, sixteen divisions at Step five and sixteen or twenty four divisions at Step six.

The South West Proposals

Following a series of stakeholder meetings, including meeting with clubs at designated club meetings or league AGMs, the feedback and views of all parties has been given very careful consideration by all of the stakeholders.

The stakeholders agreed that the objectives of any possible review were:-

1. To retain and develop a high level of senior football in Devon and Cornwall that is financially sustainable, encourages growth and provides opportunity for ambitious clubs.
2. To provide the opportunity for clubs to progress to Step five and for clubs at Step five to return to Step six. Over a period of time with increased promotion and relegation between step six and five it will improve the geographical landscape and movement between Step six and five will become more attainable.
3. Provide a competitive Step six competition for clubs in Cornwall whilst recognising that westerly clubs, particularly in Cornwall” may not go up due to the geography of the region and the associated financial impact may prevent promotion for some to Step five, however with increased movement between Step six and five in Devon over a period of time the number of clubs wishing to be prompted to Step five may well increase.
4. To provide robust and sustainable Step seven competitions that will see promotion and relegation to Step six leagues in the south-west.
5. To retain a structure that will enable clubs to compete in FA Competitions and to access Football Stadia Improvement Grants from the Football Foundation.
6. That any changes to the current structure should  not disadvantage any clubs

The Proposals

1. The South West Peninsula League will run two Step six divisions (“the East division will predominately cover Devon and the West division mainly Cornwall”).  The Champion Club of both Step six divisions will be promoted to Step five. Any Club failing to accept promotion will be in breach of National League System regulations and any penalty in respect of the clubs position in the NLS will be subject to the jurisdiction of the FA Leagues Committee.
2. The Cornwall Football Association will initially set up and run a Step seven league with a view to it becoming independent with the right structure and coordinators in the future.
3. The Devon Football Association will run two Step seven divisions (one in the south and central, one in the north and east). This is subject to enough clubs expressing interest in playing at step seven.
4. The proposal is that the new structure will be implemented for the start of the 2019/20 season with the promotion structure being applied from 2020/21 season.
5. Clubs who do not meet the required ground grading criteria for either Step six or seven will be required to sign an undertaking that full compliance will be achieved by 31st March in the second season of joining a league. Failure to meet the ground grading requirement will result in relegation.

The view of all representatives is that the new structure must provide the opportunity for those clubs who wish to progress in the National League System, whilst at the same time retaining the highest possible level of football for those clubs who through geographical or financial constraint wish to remain within a more localised structure.

If you have questions or further enquiries relating to the changes then please feel free to contact Paul Morrison on paul.morrison@devonfa.com