By Garry Clarke
DESPITE the 2020/21 season for “non-elite” football teams being brought to an end, could Warrington Rylands 1906 still be promoted to the Northern Premier League?
For a number years the Football Association have carried out numerous reshuffles of the myriad of football leagues which make up the non-league system with the ultimate aim of creating a pure 1-2-4-8-16 pyramid with the National League sitting at the top feeding into the Football League.
The latest restructuring, which would have created three extra divisions, 1 at step 4 and 2 at step 5, was due to have taken place during summer 2020, but due to Covid-19 preventing the 2019/20 season from being completed, the restructuring was put back 12 months.
The same fate befell the 2020/21 season when it was announced on Wednesday 24th February that the FA’s Alliance and League committees had decided “subject to the approval of FA Council, the 2020-21 league season for Steps 3-6 of the NLS should be curtailed with immediate effect, with no further league matches taking place this season”.
However, the FA have not ruled out the possibility of implementing the restructuring changes as a press statement went on to say “ both committees will revisit discussions around a potential restructure at Steps 4-6 of the NLS, which was previously agreed and has been on hold since the 2019-20 season”
Speculation abounds regarding the criteria to be used in determining which teams are to be promoted if the restructure goes ahead before the start of the 2021/22 season, with leagues such as the North West Counties League having barely started its 2020/21 campaign and others such as the South West Peninsula League being almost half way through their programmes.
Finding a suitable outcome to satisfy across the whole level of the game is a major problem.
There is a groundswell of opinion backing a proposal put forward by Project Non-League, and backed by a number of leading clubs, to combine the playing records of the two aborted seasons with final standings being determined on a point’s per game basis.
Its supporters believe using this formula is the best method of bridging the discrepancies in the number of games played in different leagues.
To level out an imbalance in the National League System the new step 4 division will be run by the Northern Premier League alongside its two existing First Divisions. To create the required number of clubs to form the new division the NWCFL was granted an extra two promotion slots, meaning they would promote three teams instead of just their Premier Division champions.
On the cusp of clinching promotion at the first attempt, Rylands were sat in 2nd place in the NWCFL Premier Division table when the 2019/20 season was ended, undeterred and rebranded they returned as Warrington Rylands 1906 in 2020/21 and once again sat 2nd when time was called on the 2020/21 season.
Over the two uncompleted seasons the Gorsey Lane club have taken 76 points from the 35 league games played which means their point per game average is 2.1714. A score which places them third in the two part season NWCFL Premier Division table behind 1874 Northwich (2.3529) and Bootle (2.2667), sufficient under this criteria, along with the ground improvements carried out in the past 12 months, for Warrington Rylands 1906 to be promoted to the NPL First Division, where they would most likely be placed in the South West Division.
But there again, the reorganisation may be delayed for another year, abandoned altogether or a totally different random criteria used to decide promotion, who knows what will happen?
NB. Points per game averages have been taken from Non-League Maps website and are in no way official Football Association figures.