The FA have released the new divisional look for the non-league pyramid as the long-discussed complete pyramid finally takes shape.
The main change comes in at tier four where an eighth division has been created to be run under the auspices of the Northern Premier League who will now run three Divisions at tier four.
Whilst the League’s Premier Division remains untouched, many clubs have been affected from tier four dozen to tier seven, as a result of the reorganisation by which over 100 clubs throughout the country will find themselves moved up a tier.
The three Divisions at the NPL have been split into “West”, “East” and “Midlands” and the Rams find themselves in the geographically sensible “West” despite earlier fears that a “Northern” division could have been created resulting in many trips to the far north east.
NPL Chairman Mark Harris commented:
“League boundaries change almost every year depending on the location of member clubs. We were unable to review our boundaries after the 2019/20 season was null and void, but the FA’s decision to implement the NLS restructure for the coming season demanded that we do so now.
“As in previous seasons, a small team led by NPL vice-chair Keith Brown calculated the total mileage and time travelled by Step 4 clubs in different boundary options. The board of the LMC then endorsed proposals for the composition of each Step 4 division that spread the travel costs and time equally as possible whilst trying to maximise the number of local derby fixtures.
“Following consultation with our fellow Trident Leagues, our proposals were submitted to the FA Alliance Committee for consideration alongside alternatives. I am pleased to say that the Alliance Committee agreed to support the NPL proposal, albeit with a couple of tweaks. The decision creates three Step 4 divisions which we will designate NPL West, East and Midlands. Travel in the West and East divisions will be centred on the M6 and Al corridors respectively, although lateral travel in the Midlands area is much easier than it is further north.
“It is also impossible to please everyone. None of the vacancies in the NLS have been filled this time around. The NPL will comprise 81 clubs this season, the 82nd slot relating to the vacancy created by the resignation of Droylsden. This means we will again run one club short, this season in the East division. However, it is intended that all vacancies will be filled in 12 months’ time ahead of the 2022/23 season.”
As it is, Ramsbottom’s furthest trips in the 20 club league, will see the long trek up to Workington, whilst heading in the other direction will mean a visit to Shropshire and Market Drayton.
Familiar names will be in opposition come August, with the likes of Marine, Mosley, Trafford, Colne and Clitheroe, whilst moving up from the North West Counties Leage come 1874 Northwich, Bootle, and FA Vase finalists Warrington Roland’s.
After two frustrating campaigns which saw the club second in the table when both were nullified and curtailed, no doubt manager Chris Willcock and the squad will be raring to go come August 14th in an attempt to finally gain promotion at the third attempt.
The reorganisation will see local side Radcliffe remain in the NPL Premier division, whilst in the North West Counties League, Prestwich Heys will be welcoming a promotion to their Premier division, as Bacup Borough and Bury AFC will remain in Division One North, much to the disappointment of the latter, especially in the light of the newly formed Macclesfield FC team, created following the demise of the former EFL club Macclesfield Town, finding themselves placed above Bury AFC in the Premier division.
The NWCL kicks off two weeks earlier on July 31st.