Subject to FA Council approval, the Inter-Step Play-Offs currently in place at Steps 4 and 5 of the National League System (NLS) are to be replaced after the 2022/23 season.
The change will see the introduction of a traditional four-team Play-Off in each of the sixteen Step 5 divisions – thus guaranteeing a second promotion place from Step 5 to Step 4, subject to Clubs meeting the eligibility criteria which includes an independent ground grading assessment.
At the end of the 2023/24 season, this will mean that an additional 16 Clubs will be guaranteed promotion from Step 5 to Step 4 (32 Clubs in total), with the number of Clubs relegated from each of the eight Step 4 divisions to remain as two in order to increase the divisional size at Step 4 to 22 Clubs per division. The resulting 16 vacancies at Step 5 will be filled by only relegating one Club per Step 5 division, as opposed to two.
From the 2024/25 season, it is intended that the number of Clubs automatically relegated from each of the eight Step 4 divisions to Step 5 will increase from two to four, two Clubs from each of the sixteen Step 5 divisions will continue to be promoted to Step 4 (one automatic and one via the Play-Off) and the number of clubs automatically relegated from each Step 5 division will revert to two.
These changes reflect a long-term aim of The FA to create consistency at each Step level of the NLS pyramid.
The SCEFL have long supported and pushed for this change and fully supports the move.