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Winners and losers in major restructure of non-league steps 4-6

There are local winners and losers of a proposal that’s been recommended to the FA Council for a major restructure of steps 4-6 of the National League Structure.

The FA Alliance and Leagues committee has put forward the nationwide proposal which will see 110 clubs promoted across the non-league pyramid to facilitate the creation of new, more local, divisions.

Based on their points-per-game average over the past two seasons, Holyport are set for promotion to a new division at step 5 to be administered by the Combined Counties League. Windsor and Burnham will also be moved across from the Hellenic Premier Division to make up the numbers needed in the newly created Combined Counties Premier League North.

Binfield, the most consistent team in the Hellenic Premier Division over the past two, incomplete, seasons, will be promoted to the step 4 Southern Football League Division 1.

That's a bone of contention for Flackwell Heath manager Marcus Richardson whose side were sitting pretty at the top of the Hellenic Premier Division when it was officially brought to an end earlier this year.

In Richardson’s eyes the Heathens are one of the losers of the planned restructure. They’re set to be moved sideways into the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division when he’d have preferred the club to play more local games in the Combined Counties division.

He also feels they should be promoted in Binfield’s place, as the 2019/20 campaign was terminated and then declared null and void. His frustration is that those results and standings have now been revived, enabling Binfield to go up as the league’s most consistent performer.

Speaking this week, Richardson said: “It doesn’t make no sense to me to be honest. They said last season was null and void so how is it being brought back? That basically says to me they can do whatever they want. If you’re going to give promotion to anyone, and it’s done in the correct way, we should be promoted. If you’re being fair to Binfield, they’ve been the most consistent team over the two seasons, but if you’re going by the rules, it’s unfair on Flackwell.

“We’re also being moved into the Spartan South Midlands Premier when we’d prefer to be in the Combined Counties League because it’s more local for everybody.”

Flackwell haven’t entered the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup as they prioritise their continued involvement in the FA Vase. This Saturday (April 17), several months after they were originally due to play the tie, they’ll visit Lancing FC.

Windsor boss Mark Cooper is happier with the arrangements going forward for the Royalists.

“Without a question it’s the right move,” he said. “It should see us not have to get on a long coach journey to the west country every other week.

“From a club’s point of view, it’s obviously going to save a small fortune on travel and coaches. Half of the players in step 5 travel two-and-a-half hours, meeting at 9am for 3pm kick-offs on a Saturday.

“It certainly makes the task of getting a side out every week a lot more difficult, so the prospect of a local league is overdue and one that we very much welcome.

“It’s also good for the supporters who don’t want to be travelling two-and-a-half hours for a game.”

The proposed restructure, which is still to be ratified by the FA Council, will have significant implications across the country.

More than 100 clubs will be upwardly mobile this summer, with 20 moving from step 5 to step 4 and 60 moving from step 6 to step 5. Another 30 clubs will move from the regional NLS Feeder Leagues into step 6 to make up the full quota.

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Slough Town FC last week submitted notice of its appeal to the FA against sanctions brought by the National League for its failure to fulfil fixtures in last season’s curtailed campaign.

The club has been fined £8,000 and given a suspended points deduction for next season, only applicable if the club makes further breaches.

The National League has until April 30 to respond, following which an FA Appeal Board will be arranged to consider the appeal. The club has said it will keep supporters informed as to the outcome of their appeal.

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