Is It Time To Re-Organise Non-League Football Again?


Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

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10 Responses

  1. MG says:

    Interesting stuff and one where others perhaps know better. What I will say is the Italian FA seem capable of running a coherant pyramid system but we seem to stuggle.

  2. Nathan says:

    “Interesting stuff and one where others perhaps know better.”

    You don’t say…

  3. Chris P says:

    Another alternative could be more leagues with less teams in them, which would reduce costs. I’ve often thought this would be good for the football league, 4 divisions of 18 teams rather than 3 of 24. It could also work at certain levels of the non-league pyramid.

  4. Mike Bayly says:

    @Chris – this is a very good point, and something I also support. Less games also means less midweek fixtures, which is especially important for non-league sides who face lengthy journeys and tight work schedules.

  5. JP Asher says:

    I like the idea of more divisions with fewer teams — maybe cutting down from 24 to 20 or even 18 — but as so far as the geographical anomalies go, they are inevitable in my opinion under the present system. The only solution (if you can really call it that) is regionalisation starting higher up the pyramid, but I would not favour splitting the Conference National at step one. At present we have one automatic promotion place to the League and one play-off place. In a split north/south step one this would become regional champions only going up from each section. This would exacerbate the bottleneck problem we have at the top of the non-League game which sees many strong sides stay down while some really dreadful teams in League Two repeatedly stay up. A split step one would in my opinion only work in conjunction with an increase in promotion places to four, but it goes without saying that this won’t ever happen. Can you see any League club voting for it? I like Avery’s plan, but I would keep a national division at the top of non-League and start the regionalisation as he says at step two, then continue downwards.

  6. Mark T says:

    I think the solution is simple.

    Get rid of the BSS and BSN and keep the three way split that is in operation below that. I.e. you will have an extra tier of a 3 way split that feeds directly into the conference national (1 promoted from each). BS can keep control of that tier or they can just have a national conference league and be done with it.

  7. Rob says:

    The problems goes back to the Isthmian League politicising its way into being an equal with the Northern Premier and Southern Leagues in the 1980s. This was fine when you had the Conference having a three up/three down system between three feeder leagues (although it did throw up some oddities in the Southern League such as Burton v Gravesend, with the Isthmian still trying to be a league exclusively for clubs in and around London), but when you have three feeder divisions (two of which are Southern) feeding into two other geographical leagues, then this is not only inevitable, it’s only going to get worse. I remember the early years of the Conference North/South when it almost seemed amusing that teams from Cambridgeshire and Norfolk were considered Northern.

    So what to do? Well, reducing the size of the leagues is fine in principle, but fewer teams means fewer games, and that means a loss of revenue for all clubs, so not one likely to have the support of the clubs. Going to 20/24 for this season would only plug the gap for a year (and BSN clubs would oppose).

    Maybe the leagues shouldn’t be rigidly set up as a North/South league. The Regionalliga split at level four in Germany has changed depending on the dynamics of the teams, and maybe the Conference could learn that way. Take a point on the map as an arbitrary centre of the universe, and arrange the teams from there. One season it would favour the south west, the next season the north east, then south east, north west, and so on. Yes it will inconvenience one or two clubs, unlike now, they will be inconvenienced for one season, rather than a minimum of three (as is the situation now).

  8. I also favour 2-4-8-16, but leave it as one at the top for now until the Conference Premier is as strong as League Two, which it almost is. Just look at the progress made by Stevenage, Morecambe, Accrington et al. Then the League clubs might go for three up three down so they have more chance of getting back up!

  9. Marke says:

    I believe 2-4-8 is the way forward. It would be great to get an additional promotion spot into league 2 whereby the sides finishing second and third in each league could enter playoffs for the third promotion spot.

  10. Fantastic article Mike,very informative on some issues, especially the German Non-League model.

    Also, Mike Avery’s website and ideas for the restructure of the non-league system are revolutionary and should be backed by all clubs in the Non-League towards the FA.

    The Non-League needs a voice or at least we need someone on Non-Leagues side in the F.A. for any change and benefit to occur.

    Sadly, I believe the consensus in the FA is that England has too many football clubs and non-league is so unprofitable for them compared to the EPL, that they have no priority to help.

    However, if they gave a flying F— about Non-League and Grassroots, I mean really cared, then perhaps England as a football nation will finally have a positive identity with direction.

    @MG you having a laugh? The Italian lower leagues are under scrutiny for match fixing and corruption.

    Germany is the only other country with as many non-league clubs compared to us. I would love to hear more about their system.

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