The FA have released more details about the Inter-Step Play-Off Matches that will help determine promotion and relegation between Steps 4 and 5 of the National League System at the end of the 2021/22 season.
It was revealed in June that, subject to criteria being met, the champions of the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division will be promoted from Step 5 to Step 4 whilst the runners-up will take part in a one-off play-off at a Step 4 team to see who will compete in Step 4 for the 2022/23 campaign. (Click here for the original announcement)
The following document was released by the FA on Friday evening explaining more about the format of the Inter-Step Play-Off Matches:
Please refer to Regulation 5.2 of the National League System Regulations.
2. Sequence of Matches - Venues
Subject to a full quota of Clubs qualifying to participate, each one-off Inter-League Play-Off Match will comprise of a team finishing in third or fourth bottom at Step 4 against a team finishing in second at Step 5. The winning Club will be allocated at Step 4 for the following season and the losing side at Step 5 for the following season.
The intended ‘pairing’ of Clubs will be on the premise of geographical grouping, with the exact grouping being decided once the Clubs eligible for the Inter-Step Play-Offs is known. Once geographically grouped, the Club at Step 4 with the highest Points Per Game will be paired with Club with the lowest Points Per Game at Step 5 to create a tie. This method will then be applied on a sliding scale with all other Clubs in the geographical group.
Should a reprieve be required at Step 4 then the team at Step 5 with the highest Points Per Game average will also be automatically promoted to Step 4 (see example at Appendix A). Should there not be 16 eligible Clubs who finish second at Step 5, the Club with the highest Points Per Game average at Step 4 will be reprieved.
The Matches will be played to a conclusion as one-off games and should the scores finish level at the end of normal time then 15 minutes each way extra time will be played. Should the scores still be level at the end of extra time then the winners will be decided by the taking of kicks from the penalty mark.
3. Dates of Games
As agreed by the Alliance and Leagues Committees each season.
Should a Club that has qualified to play at home not be able to host the game at their normal home ground on the scheduled date and kick-off time then the game will be played on the ground of their opponents. Should neither Club be able to host the fixture, a venue will be selected at the discretion of the Committee, with any costs associated to this being shared equally by the two Clubs.
4. Financial Arrangements
All Play-Off games will be played under the terms associated to Step 3 & 4 Play-Offs with the net gate and any income generated by the broadcast of the match being distributed on the ratio of 37.5% to each of the two Clubs and the balance of 12.5% payable to each League.
Any expenses claimed for the match must be agreed with the Committee and the relevant receipts must be entered.
All matches are arranged by the Committee and are not treated as “Home” matches of the Club on whose ground the match is played. All complimentary tickets will be issued by or at the direction of the League who must be consulted on all arrangements including the allocation of Directors Box tickets.
As per League Rule 19.
6. COVID-19 and variance of these conditions
The Committee(s) will endeavour to adhere to the protocols set out above, however, particularly in relation to matters which are beyond the Committees’ control, all rights are reserved by the Committee(s) to amend this document and/or the format of Inter-Step Play-Offs as deemed appropriate from time-to-time.
7. Other Matters
Any matters arising not covered above should be referred to the relevant League Secretary who will refer to The FA’s Alliance or Leagues Committee (as appropriate).
Appendix A: Working example of reprieves and further automatic promotion from Step 5
1 - In this example, the Step 4 starting point is 153 Clubs but requires 160 to be at capacity;
2 - The bottom two Clubs in each Step 4 division (16 Clubs) are relegated to Step 5;
3 - The Champion Club in each Step 5 division (16 Clubs) are promoted to Step 4;
4 - As the number of Clubs in point 2 and point 3 are equal, the sub-total of Clubs remains at 153;
5 - 7 reprieves are required, so the 7 (out of 8) 4th from bottom Clubs at Step 4 with the highest PPG do not have to take part in Inter-Step Play-Offs;
6 - This leaves 9 eligible Step 4 Clubs for the Play-Offs and 16 eligible 2nd placed Clubs at Step 5;
7 - As a result of point 6, the Clubs finishing in 2nd position at Step 5 are ranked on PPG with the 7 highest being automatically promoted (taking Step 4 to 160 Clubs);
8 - The 9 remaining Step 4 Clubs and 9 remaining Step 5 Clubs are placed into geographical groupings and paired by PPG as per the Play-Off Criteria;
9 - The total number of Clubs at Step 4 remains at 160 as per point 7, as either the Step 4 Club wins and remains at Step 4 or loses and is replaced by a Step 5 Club.
Meanwhile, the FA say a document explaining the format of the Step 6 Play-Offs (including Toolstation NCEL Division One) will be released in due course - but it is expected that they will mirror the format of those at Steps 3 and 4, ie. 2nd v 5th, 3rd v 4th, with the winners of each tie playing in a final.