The Football Association has issued an update on the restructure of Steps 5/6 for the 2020/21 season.

(The Northern League first division is at Step 5 and the second division at Step 6 in the National League System.)

Three teams will be promoted to Step 4 from the Northern League,  North West Counties and the Northern Counties East Step 5 divisions where they will be joined automatically by the champions of the other 11 Step 5 divisions.

An additional four second placed clubs from these 11 division will, based on points per game basis, also receive automatic promotion while the seven remaining second placed clubs from these divisions will play a one-off fixture against the bottom placed clubs in the existing seven Step 4 divisions.

The bottom placed sides in the 14 existing Step 5 divisions will also be ranked on a points per game basis with the bottom 12 being relegated to the most geographically appropriate Step 6 division.

Clubs finishing in first, second, third and fourth places in the Step 6 divisions will be promoted to step 5 except in the case of the two South West Peninsula divisions where only the teams finishing in first and second place will be promoted.

Those clubs finishing in the bottom two places of the 20 Step 6 divisions will be liable to relegation.

Clubs wishing to be promoted from a Step 7 league must finish in first position, although clubs down to 5th position may be considered if the higher placed clubs don’t meet the appropriate entry criteria or do not wish to be promoted and for this season only more than one club may be considered from each league.

A maximum of 40 clubs will be promoted from Step 7 with reprieves, again on a points per game basis, if the number of eligible clubs does not reach that number.

The FA has carried out a mapping exercise (based on league tables at the end of December on a points per game basis).  A further mapping exercise will be carried out in March to be considered by the Leagues Committee on April 1.  No later than April 17 that update will be circulated to clubs and leagues, along with an indication of possible lateral movements for clubs between leagues.

These mapping exercises are to give the FA a draft indication of how leagues may look next season, but obviously no decisions will be made until the end of the season, once final league standings are confirmed.

On May 12 the committee will agree the draft allocation of clubs to step 5/6 leagues.  On May 12 clubs will be informed of lateral movements and will have a week to express any views.  The Step 5/6 allocations will be released on May 21.

The FA says its intention is to have 20 teams in Step 5 divisions.  It is also their aim to have, where possible, 20 teams at Step 6, but some divisions may operate with 18 or 19 teams next season.

To reflect changes to the National League System the FA’s referees department has decided that with effect from the start of the 2020/21 season the refereeing structure will be brought in line, with Step 3 & 4  being Contributory Leagues and Steps 5 & 6 being Supply Leagues.

The five Step divisions that currently have Contributory League status, Northern League Division One and the Premier divisions of the Eastern Counties, North-West Counties, Eastern Counties and Western League are all reclassified as Supply leagues with the effect in the region being the Northern League will have the same level of referees for both divisions –  a Step 5/6 referee.