Few surprises in new look NPL
The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League's new look for next season was provisionally agreed by the Football Association's Leagues Committee on Friday.
The annual allocation of clubs across the country from Steps 1-5 was announced after being finalised by the FA at the Evo-Stik Southern League's Worcester headquarters.
The fate of the town's own Non-League side, Worcester City, and a number of other clubs outside the Evo-Stik NPL currently experiencing financial difficulties could still have a knock-on effect on the final allocation should they force a second reshuffle before the Step 1-4 AGMs next month. The provisional list is then subject to approval at the league's AGM on June 15 in Blackpool.
The arrival of Darlington 1883 and Scarborough Athletic in First Division North and South respectively, is sure to have a positive effect on both average attendances and finances thanks to the large followings of the fan run heirs to the former Football League clubs.
Another well supported Premier Division club, First Division South Champions King's Lynn Town, avoided being shifted sideways at Step 3 into the Evo-Stik Southern League as the committee's members sought to match the aspirations of clubs with geography.
The Linnets will be joined by Droylsden, relegated from Conference North and Leicestershire's Barwell, who won promotion from the Evo-Stik Southern League. Skelmersdale United, Trafford and Stamford AFC complete the make-up of the NPL's top flight, which like the others at Step 3 has been extended as planned to 24 clubs.
2012-13 NPL Premier Division Champions North Ferriby United make their debut at Step 2 in Conference North along with Hednesford who returned last weekend via the play-offs.
At Step 4, Goole AFC switch to First Division South while Northwich Victoria head the other way. Bedworth, relegated from the Evo-Stik Southern League's Premier Division, also enter First Division South along with relegated Eastwood Town and Scarborough. North West Counties Padiham join First Division North along with relegated Kendal, Northern League champions Darlington 1883 completing the line-up.
Elsewhere, the FA say there were some difficult decisions to make in their official statement on the allocation, especially at Step 4 and in particular in the Southern League South and West Division.
Due to the fact that neither the Wessex nor Western Leagues were in a position to promote a club, together with the requested relegation of Sholing Sports, that division was left with three spaces to fill.
The FA's conundrum wasn't helped by the fact that no Step 3 club was relegated to that division. Their solution, to transfer a group of three clubs - Fleet Town, Godalming Town and Guildford City - to the South & West Division from the Central division. This had a knock on effect on other clubs at Step 4.
The other main change affecting the NPL, the Premier Division's expansion to 24 clubs, was the result of a solution finally being found for the aborted Step 5 Review of 2012.
With a commitment to promote more clubs from Step 5, the Step 3 divisions increased to 24 clubs along with the two Isthmian League Step 4 divisions. This resulted in 17 clubs being promoted from Step 5, a one-off. In future 14 clubs will be eligible for promotion compared to the 12 in previous seasons.
Of these, Guernsey become the first Channel Island club to compete in the upper levels of the league structure following their second successive promotion. They have been allocated to the Isthmian League Division 1 South.
For the full allocation across Non-League's top divisions next season follow the links of the FA's website at: www.thefa.com/News/2013/may/step-1-4-allocations-season-2013-14.aspx
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