NLP Column By Matt Badcock
EVERY season, in conjunction with the Football Association, we produce a Pyramid Poster.
It shows the National League System make-up from Steps 1 to 6 with all the Step 7 competitions also listed.
When it arrives from the printers each year, it’s hard not to be taken aback by the scale of it all. For a country this size, we have a tremendous number of football clubs outside of the Football League.
From big cities to small towns – often boasting more than one team – to tiny villages, football weaves through the fabric of every blade of grass this country has. It’s remarkable – and why everyone should be proud of the system in this country.
It is feasible – although investment is needed – for a tiny village club to reach the Premier League should it win promotion and meet the off-pitch standards along the way.
Our designers who put the Pyramid Poster together are already thinking ahead a couple of years and quite how they are going to fit it all in.
As you will know, the number of divisions have expanded from this season with an extra at both Step 3 and Step 4.
It’s all part of the FA’s ongoing restructuring with the system in need of a reshape to fit with modern day life and an emphasis on reducing travelling times and costs.
Clearly, it’s never going to be perfect. The very shape of our shores mean there will always be clubs on the periphery of boundaries.
Even with the new divisions, we still see some clubs particularly hard hit, often through no fault of their own in the case of Hampshire outfit Fleet Town being shifted to a new division as a knock-on effect of Yorkshire club Shaw Lane’s demise.
But there will be further changes as we move forward. The FA have confirmed they plan to introduce an eighth division at Step 4 – almost certainly in the north-east – for 2020-21.
There are some oddities that need to be fixed with the bottle neck that has now been created in promotions at Step 3 and 4.
With only six clubs coming down from the National League North, it means only six clubs can go up from Step 3 – four champions and then super play-offs across the divisions to decide the next two.
And at Step 4, only five of the seven play-off winners will go up on a Points-Per-Game basis. It’s, as the FA acknowledge, far from ideal.
So expect the system to evolve over the coming years and, maybe, we could also see the much-needed third promotion place from the National League into the Football League.
The English football system is unique – and fluidity of movement up and down is vital.
THE FA Cup kicks off this weekend with more prize money on offer than ever before.
It’s been doubled this season and in the Extra Preliminary Round and Preliminary Round, losing clubs will also take home a slice of the pie (£750 and £960 respectively).
Fantastic news for all clubs at this level and even more of an incentive to strive for a great run in the competition.
Of course, clubs can use the extra cash how they see fit but hopefully many will choose to invest it into their club, buy those new seats, put it towards that new toilet block and generally improve their facilities. No doubt, some will fancy bringing in a new striker!