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Friday, February 10, 2017

National League Should Have More Promotion Places

Bulls season ticket holder Bill Thomas argues for more promotion places from the National League, and also comments on recent plans to restructure steps 3-7 of the non-league pyramid.

I have argued for more promotion places from the Conference, (now National League) for over twenty years. How can it possibly be considered fair that the Championship and League One have three promotion places, League Two has four promotion places, and the National League only has two? I think that a more equitable system is needed.

In my opinion, League One, League Two and the National League should all have the same number of promotion places, as they all have 24 teams and they all promote into Leagues with 24 teams. So I think that they should either all have three promotion places, or all have four promotion places. Either way, the Championship would continue to have three promotion places, and National League North and South would both continue to have two promotion places as now.

I believe that if the National League had three or four promotion places, then it would be mutually beneficial to both the National League and League Two. Staying in the Football League would be more of an achievement, relegated Football League clubs would have a better chance to get back up, and clubs that have never played in the Football League would have a better chance to get there. 

Furthermore, both the National League and League Two should be more competitive, more exciting and more interesting, with more teams challenging for promotion or fighting against relegation each season. Attendances would probably increase.

I also think that it is fair to say that the teams that are promoted from the National League appear to do at least as well as the teams that are promoted from League Two. And Lincoln City and Sutton United have both reached the Fifth Round of this year's FA Cup. So in my opinion the National League should be constantly campaigning for more promotion places.

Below the fifth tier of course, the leagues at steps 2-4 all have two promotion places. But as these leagues are regionalised, I think that winning promotion from these levels is probably more achievable as the best teams are split into different regions. Below step 4 however, I do think that the step 5 leagues need a better promotion system than they have now. I was therefore very pleased to read that there are plans restructure steps 3 to 7 of the non-league pyramid, starting from season 2018/19.

With the proposed new structure, there would be four regional leagues at step 3, (instead of three), and seven regional leagues at step 4, (instead of six), but there would still be fourteen regional leagues at step 5. There would also be extra divisions at step 6 and step 7. All of the step 3 leagues would be likely to have 22 teams, and all of the step 4 and 5 leagues would be likely to have 20 teams. The systems of promotion and relegation and also who would run the new divisions is apparently not yet decided.

But if the right number of teams are promoted from each level each season, then I think that this would be an excellent structure. It would cut travel costs at steps 3 and 4 and would also provide an opportunity for all of the step 5 leagues to have two promotion places. From steps 2-5, the northern half of the pyramid could be shaped 1-2-3-6 and the southern half could be shaped 1-2-4-8. This would allow all of the leagues from step 2 to step 5 to all have two promotion places, and would also allow for there being more teams in the South than there are in the North. So I think that this restructure could work very well.

But at the top level of non-league football, I really do feel very strongly that the number of promotion places from the National League needs to be increased to either three or four. I believe that this would make both the National League and the Football League a much better place to be!

Bill Thomas ... Bradford on Avon