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From Tonights Yorkshire Evening Post


Promotion lottery leaves league's bosses in a stew
BY WENDY WALKER
THE Football Association has been accused of "replacing a carrot with a turnip" after taking away automatic promotion from the Northern Counties East League.
Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the league has promoted one of its top two clubs to the Northern (UniBond) Premier League, providing they could meet the required ground criteria.
But that's all changed following the restructuring of the pyramid system in the summer, with 15 leagues vying for just eight promotion places across the country.
And it's now emerged should high-fliers Harrogate Railway or Selby Town win the NCE Premier Division crown come May, they are facing the lottery of a one-off play-off game – possibly away from home – for the right to make the step up.
NCE League secretary Barry Wood blasted the plans after receiving an outline of the promotion/relegation procedures from the FA.
He said: "We discussed the document at a management board meeting and we didn't like the look of it at all so we have forwarded a copy to all our Premier Division sides.
"The fact we had an automatic promotion place in the past, based on ground-grading, now seems to have been cast aside. There has generally been a carrot at the end of the season. That carrot is now a turnip.
"We certainly don't like the provisions being put forward, we don't like the play-off business and we don't like the fact our champions could go all the way through a season without losing a game yet still might not get promoted. On the basis of one game, all the season's work could be for nothing.
"The reason for our existence from the start was to help push clubs forward. We see this as a retrograde step.
"If the football authorities really believe this is the way to promote a promotion/relegation system, they have got some hard thinking to do."
The proposals put forward by the FA Leagues Committee states two clubs will be relegated from each step 4 league, which includes the UniBond First Division.
Whittled
One club – the champions or if they are not eligible the runners-up – from the 15 leagues in level 5, which includes the NCE Premier Division, would then be put forward for promotion and whittled down to eight clubs via play-offs.
A draw for the play-offs, which would consist of one game with extra-time and penalties if necessary, will be carried out in January on a league versus league basis.
Clubs drawn against leagues who have no eligible candidates for promotion in May would receive a walkover.
The eight winning teams from the play-offs would go into a promotion/relegation pool and allocated to the "most geographically convenient division" in step 4.
UniBond League Chief Executive Duncan Bayley, also a member of the FA Leagues Committee, said that procedure was by no means final, but he did confirm play-offs would probably be used in some form.
Bayley said: "You would lose automatic promotion on a pure practicality. In theory 15 clubs could be eligible for promotion and there are only eight positions. There might well be play-offs but, though it was on the table, I don't think they will be determined in January.
"A lot of things have been highlighted which don't make that very practical. For instance, some clubs who qualify for promotion could be runners-up and that wouldn't be fair on the balance who are champions.
"And we may have to have a system which ensures both northern and southern clubs come through otherwise that would create problems. You wouldn't have to do it, but it would be logical to do so.
"I think we will end up waiting until early April to establish what shape things are in, who the applicants are likely to be and we will then be in a position to make a better decision."

 "The Blues"