Non-League Restructure – Counter Proposal

Since publishing the Non-League Restructure post a few days back, it proved a great talking point on various Facebook groups and many other fans forums. I have since received a few Counter Proposals. One published here: with the original here: Again the reader has asked to remain anonymous, but has gone through great lengths in showing their reasoning behind their thoughts. Again, your comments, shares and thoughts on this are greatfully received.

I read with interest the Non-League Restructure article that was published on NonLeagueReview the other day. Whilst I am in total agreement that something needs to be done to safeguard the future of non-league football, I wholeheartedly disagree with the article for one very simple reason, and that is that the proposal was of a “closed shop” with no promotion or relegation.

As a supporter of a North West Counties League team at Step 5, this would be a massive stumbling block. If the leagues above are a closed shop then what would be the point? Teams at Step 5 would not be able to progress. We may as well lock the turnstiles up and go home.

So I thought that I would come up with a counter proposal. I actually think that the current pyramid works really well and just needs tweaking slightly as opposed to radical changes taking place.

The major problem that is wrong with the pyramid at present is one that teams in the North West Counties League and other Step 5 leagues encounter. Promotion. At every single level from the Evo-Stik North and South right up to the Football League Championship, there are play-offs. These are vital, because if we are heading into March and April, even if you are down as far as 10th in the league, you still have something to play for and still have a chance of promotion.

The way that the leagues are currently set up, play-offs cannot be introduced as the numbers do not match up. There are 14 Step 5 leagues, so to have play offs in each of these would need require 14 additional relegation places from the Step 4 leagues. It simply isn’t going to happen.

However we need to bear in mind that any restructure has to address this bottleneck with play-offs introduced across all of the Step 5 leagues to encourage promotion.

To address restructuring, you have to look at the whole picture with every league and not just the current situation in and around the north of the country. Here is the current picture:

Step 1 24 clubs Conference National

Step 2 44 clubs Conference North and Conference South (22 in each)

Step 3 72 clubs EvoStik Premier, Southern Premier and Isthmian Premier (24 in each)

Step 4 136 clubs EvoStik N & S, Southern S&W / C (22 in each) and Isthmian N & S (24 in each)

Step 5 296 clubs 14 Step 5 leagues across the country (numbers vary in each league)

The first thing I would do is to drop the Step 5 Leagues to 12 leagues from the current 14. At first glance this appears that you would have to relegate quite a number of teams but this is not true.

Yes some Step 5 leagues will be horrified to lose their status, but the FA need to do what is in the interests of football and not what is in the interests of individual leagues. Look back the early 1980’s when the Conference was first launched. The Cheshire League / Lancashire League lost their status then, but it has benefitted football as a whole, which is what needs to happen here.

To compensate for the loss of these two Step 5 leagues, we are going to introduce three new leagues. One is at Step 3 called Midlands Premier and two are at Step 4 which feed into this called Midlands North and Midlands South.

So now we have this framework, the next thing to do is to restructure the leagues to make the numbers fit. It’s actually not that difficult.

Step 1 and 2 (the Conference) stays as it is. At Step 3 and Step 4, all leagues are reduced to 20 clubs. The reason for this is to reduce the congestion that currently exists across all these leagues, with teams playing 38 league matches instead of up to 46 as they do now. All Step 5 leagues will remain a maximum 22 clubs as they are at present.

One final change that I am making is that I am restructuring the NPL North and South so that they are actually NPL West and East. This makes more sense to me with the M1 and M6 motorways running through the heart of each the new leagues, making travel a lot easier for NPL clubs.

So this is the new structure:

Step 1 24 clubs Conference National

Step 2 44 clubs Conference North and Conference South (22 in each)

Step 3 80 clubs Northern Prem, Midland Prem, Southern Prem, Isthmian Prem (20 in each)

Step 4 160 clubs Northern N / S, Midland N / S, Southern S&W / C, Isthmian N / S (20 in each)

Step 5 264 clubs 12 Step 5 leagues across the country (22 in each)

The numbers are exactly the same as they are at present:

Current Situation 24+44+72+136+296 = 504 teams

Proposed Situation 24+44+80+160+264 = 504 teams

No extra teams are required in the “pyramid” and no teams are relegated as a result. In fact with the formation of the Midlands Leagues, 8 teams are actually promoted from Step 4 and 32 teams are promoted from Step 5.

The non-league pyramid now becomes an actual pyramid, with play-offs now possible at each level from Step 5 all the way up to the Championship, something that cannot happen at present.

Promotion and Relegation Issues

1 x Step 1 4 relegated (2 to Conf North, 2 to Conf South)

2 x Step 2 1 + 1 play off winner promoted, 4 relegated

4 x Step 3 1 + 1 play off winner promoted, 4 relegated

8 x Step 4 1 + 1 play off winner promoted, 3 relegated

12 x Step 5 1 + 1 play off winner promoted

Provisional league makeup if it happened this season

This is what each league would look like next season if we had restructured as above:

Step 3

Step 4





Ashton United

Barton Town Old Boys

Bamber Bridge

Belper Town

Brigg Town


Blyth Spartans

Brighouse Town

Celtic Nation


Carlton Town


Curzon Ashton



Darlington 1883

Glossop North End


FC United of Manchester


Kendal Town

Frickley Athletic

Harrogate Railway Athletic

Lancaster City


Lincoln United

Market Drayton Town

Leek Town

Mickleover Sports



New Mills

Newcastle Town

Matlock Town

Ossett Albion

Northwich Victoria

Nantwich Town

Ossett Town

Norton United

Ramsbottom United

Rainworth Miners Welfare


Skelmersdale United

Scarborough Athletic

Prescot Cables



Radcliffe Borough

Whitby Town


Runcorn Linnets

Witton Albion

Spennymoor Town

Salford City


Stocksbridge Park Steels

Stafford Rangers

Worksop Town

Tadcaster Albion

Warrington Town


Step 3

Step 4





Arlesey Town

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Ampthill Town

Banbury United

Ardley United



Bedworth United

Aylesbury United

Biggleswade Town

Bishop’s Cleeve


Cambridge City

Boldmere St. Michaels

Barton Rovers

Chesham United

Cinderford Town

Bedford Town

Coalville Town

Daventry Town


Corby Town

Deeping Rangers

Colney Heath

Dunstable Town

Evesham United

Didcot Town

Grantham Town


Enfield 1893

Halesowen Town

Highgate United

Haringey Borough

Hitchin Town

Huntingdon Town

Leighton Town

Kettering Town

Loughborough Dynamo

Potters Bar Town

King’s Lynn Town

North Leigh


Redditch United


Royston Town

Rugby Town

Spalding United

Tower Hamlets

Rushall Olympic

St. Ives Town

Waltham Abbey

St. Neots Town

Stratford Town

Wantage Town


Sutton Coldfield Town




Wingate & Finchley


Step 3

Step 4






AFC Hayes

AFC Totton


Ascot United

Alresford Town

Chippenham Town

Beaconsfield SYCOB


Cirencester Town

Carshalton Athletic

Bridgwater Town

Dorchester Town

Chalfont St Peter

Bristol Manor Farm

Frome Town


Camberley Town

Hampton & Richmond Borough


Clevedon Town

Harrow Borough

Cray Wanderers

Fleet Town

Hayes & Yeading United

Egham Town

Folland Sports


Epsom & Ewell

Gillingham Town

Hungerford Town

Hanwell Town

Godalming Town



Larkhall Athletic



Mangotsfield United

Merthyr Town

North Greenford United


Metropolitan Police


Shortwood United

Paulton Rovers

Tooting & Mitcham United

Swindon Supermarine

Poole Town


Taunton Town

Slough Town

Walton & Hersham

Tiverton Town

Truro City

Walton Casuals

Wimborne Town



Yate Town


Step 3

Step 4





AFC Hornchurch

AFC Sudbury

Ashford United

Billericay Town


Burgess Hill Town

Bognor Regis Town

Brentwood Town

Chatham Town

Bury Town

Brightlingsea Regent

East Grinstead Town

Canvey Island

Burnham Ramblers

East Preston

Dulwich Hamlet

Dereham Town

Faversham Town

East Thurrock United

Erith Town


Enfield Town

Felixstowe & Walton United

Hastings United

Folkestone Invicta


Herne Bay

Grays Athletic

Great Wakering Rovers


Harlow Town

Hadleigh United

Hythe Town


Heybridge Swifts

Littlehampton Town


Maldon & Tiptree



Needham Market


Maidstone United




Soham Town Rangers

South Park

Peacehaven & Telscombe

Thamesmead Town

Three Bridges

Tonbridge Angels


Tunbridge Wells

VCD Athletic


Whitstable Town

Witham Town




Maps available to accompany the above at:


Northern Based Step 5 Leagues

Ashington Abbey Hey Armthorpe Welfare
Bedlington Terriers AFC Blackpool Athersley Recreation
Billingham Synthonia AFC Liverpool Basford United
Bishop Auckland Albion Sports Boston Town
Bridlington Town Alsager Town Cleethorpes Town
Consett Ashton Athletic Dunkirk
Crook Town Barnoldswick Town Garforth Town
Dunston UTS Bootle Glasshoughton Welfare
Durham City Colne Handsworth Parramore
Guisborough Town Congleton Town Heanor Town
Jarrow Roofing Bolden CA Formby Liversedge
Marske United Kidsgrove Athletic Loughborough University
Morpeth Town Maine Road Maltby Main
Newcastle Benfield Nelson Nostell Miners Welfare
Newton Aycliffe Runcorn Town Parkgate
North Shields Silsden Quorn
Penrith Squires Gate Retford United
Pickering Town St. Helens Town Shaw Lane Aquaforce
Sunderland Ryhope CA Stockport Sports Shepshed Dynamo
West Allotment Celtic Thackley Sleaford Town
West Auckland Town West Didsbury & Chorlton Staveley Miners Welfare
Whitley Bay Winsford United Wakefield



The 8 extra teams promoted from Step 4 are the ones who finished second with the best Points per Game (PPG) average. If this team is also one that achieved promotion via the play offs, then I have used the runner up in the play offs as the team promoted.

The 32 extra teams promoted from Step 5 are the teams finishing in second and third place in each of the Step 5 leagues (28 teams), plus the four fourth place teams with the best PPG.

I have also assumed that every ground is up to standard, and this is something that the FA will need to re-evaluate should play-offs be allowed at Step 5. I believe that a team should be promoted regardless of ground grading (lets face it, we are talking about teams with attendances less than 300 – is it really going to matter if they have 150 seats on time?) and has until 31 March the following year to get up to the required standard else face automatic relegation.


3 thoughts on “Non-League Restructure – Counter Proposal

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