The FA announce promotion and relegation creteria for the end of 2021-22 season

Wednesday 09th June 2021

The Football Association have released the regulations for the National League System for the 2021/22 season which includes details of how promotion and relegation will work.

Isthmian League:

The Isthmian Premier Division will see two Clubs promoted, one as champions and the other via the Play-offs, but four clubs will be relegated.

In the Isthmian North, South East and South Central Divisions, will each see two Clubs promoted, as usual one automatically and one via the Play-offs.  Along with two clubs relegated automatically from each Division, the sides that finish third bottom and fourth bottom will face Play-Offs against Step Five runners-up in one-off matches that they will host.

It has been confirmed that the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division champions will be offered the opportunity of promotion to Step Four whilst the runners-up will get the chance to take part in a one-off play-off at a Step Four side to determine whether they can also go up, while the bottom two sides will be relegated to Step Six.

The Southern Counties East Football League First Division champions will be promoted whilst play-offs will take place to see who will join them in going up, and the bottom three sides will be liable to relegation.

Step Four (eg. Isthmian League) and Step Five (Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division):

The Clubs finishing in the bottom two places in each of the eight divisions at Step Four at the end of the Regular Season will be relegated and placed in a feeder pool and placed in the most geographically appropriate division at Step Five for the following Playing Season.

The Clubs finishing in third bottom and fourth bottom in each of the eight divisions at Step Four at the end of the Regular Season will take part in Inter-Step Play Off Matches against the Clubs finishing in second position in each of the sixteen divisions at Step Five to determine whether they remain at Step Four or are relegated to Step Five for the following Playing Season.

The Clubs relegated for finishing bottom and second from bottom in each of the eight divisions at Step Four will be replaced by the Clubs finishing in first position in each of the sixteen divisions at Step Five.

The Clubs finishing in second position in each of the sixteen divisions at Step Five will take part in Inter-Step Play Off Matches against Clubs finishing in third and fourth from bottom in each of the eight divisions at Step Four to determine whether they remain at Step Five or are promoted to Step Four for the following Playing Season.

Where a Club finishes in first position but does not meet the minimum criteria for promotion to the next Step, the Club finishing in second position shall be promoted and the Club finishing in third position (and so on) shall be the Club in the next eligible position to take part in the Inter-Step Play Off Matches.

Where a Club finishes in an Inter-Step Play Off Position but does not meet the Criteria for participation in Inter-Step Play Off Matches, the Club finishing in the next eligible position shall take part in the Inter-Step Play Off Matches.

Clubs finishing below position seven will not be eligible to take part in Inter-Step Play Off Matches.

Inter-Step Play Off Matches:

Each Club at Step Four which finishes the Regular Season in an Inter-Step Play Off Position will be drawn at home against a Club from Step Five which finishes the Regular Season in an Inter-Step Play Off Position.

The conditions of Inter-Step Play Off Matches (such as the criteria of how ties are drawn, associated financial matters, extra time, and player eligibility) will be confirmed by the Committee nearer the time.

Ties will be a one-off match with the winner being allocated to Step Four for the following Playing Season and the defeated Club being allocated to Step Five for the following Playing Season.

The Clubs allocated to Step Four will be placed in a feeder pool and placed in the most geographically appropriate division at Step Four for the following Playing Season.

In addition, a Club allocated to Step Four shall comply with the Licencing System provision as set out in Appendix 1 to the Standardised Rules.

Step Five and Step Six:

The Clubs in the bottom two places in each of the sixteen divisions at Step Five at the end of the Regular Season will be relegated and placed in a feeder pool and placed in the most geographically appropriate division of Step Six for the following Playing Season.

These Clubs will be replaced by:

(i) the Clubs finishing in first position at the end of the Regular Season in each of the two divisions operated by the South West Peninsula League;

(ii) the Clubs finishing in first position at the end of the Regular Season in each of the remaining fifteen divisions at Step Six;

and (iii) a further fifteen Clubs determined by a series of Play Off Matches within those remaining fifteen divisions (i.e. the Southern Counties East Football League).

Where a Club finishes in first position but does not meet the criteria for promotion to the next Step, the Club finishing in second position shall be promoted and the Club finishing in third position (and so on) shall be the Club in the next eligible position to take part in the Play Off Matches.

Where a Club finishes in a Play Off Position but does not meet the Criteria for participation in Play Off Matches, the Club finishing in the next eligible position shall take part in the Play Off Matches.

In each division at Step Six, the Play Off Matches shall be played so that the highest placed of the eligible Clubs plays against the lowest placed and the other two Clubs play each other (Example: second v fifth and third v fourth).

The ties will be played on a single match basis with the home Club being the Club with the best points per game ratio in the Regular Season.

If there are only three eligible Clubs then the highest placed shall receive a bye to the second match where it will play the winner of the other Play Off Match and the winner of that match will be promoted.

Clubs finishing below seventh position will not be eligible to take part in Play Off Matches.

The promoted Clubs will be placed in a feeder pool and placed in the most geographically appropriate division at Step Five for the following Playing Season.

Step Six and relegation:

At the end of the Regular Season the Clubs in the bottom three positions of each of the seventeen Step Six divisions will be liable to relegation.

The final number of Clubs to be relegated will be confirmed once promotion candidates from Feeder Leagues and any vacancies are known.

If reprieves are required the Clubs third from bottom will be ranked on a points per match basis (then goal difference, then goals scored if required) – the Club(s) with the best points per match will be reprieved.

If all third from bottom Clubs are reprieved, and a further reprieve(s) is required, the same process will apply for Clubs second from bottom (and so on).

At Steps Two-Five, the Club finishing in last place in the table at the end of the Regular Season will be relegated and not reprieved.

At Steps One to Six, if a Club becomes eligible to take part in a Play Off Match and refuses to take part in that match or if a Club qualifies for promotion and refuses to be promoted then that Club shall be relegated from the division it last played in and shall play the following Playing Season in the division at the next Step level below. If the refusal/ineligibility applies to a Club currently operating at Step Six, the Club will be removed from the NLS and placed in the appropriate Regional NLS Feeder League, provided there is an eligible Club at Feeder League level to replace them.








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