Thurlow Nunn League chairman sheds light on Premier Division relegation spots

PROMOTION/RELEGATION CONFUSION: Clubs have been left in the dark by proposed changes to the national non-league structure, including a possible seven teams leaving the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, a league Stowmarket are fighting their first season in having won the First Division at the end of last season
PROMOTION/RELEGATION CONFUSION: Clubs have been left in the dark by proposed changes to the national non-league structure, including a possible seven teams leaving the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, a league Stowmarket are fighting their first season in having won the First Division at the end of last season
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Peter Hutchings, chairman of the Thurlow Nunn League, has confirmed that four teams are 'most likely' to face the chop from the Premier Division at the end of the season as part of extensive changes to the national non-league structure.

It had been suggested that as many as seven teams could be relegated from the Thurlow Nunn top flight at the end of the 2017/18 season, as the FA looks to standardise the National League Structure and cut down on travel time.

But Hutchings has now revealed this is a highly unlikely scenario, with the clubs to 'expect four teams to go down at the end of the season'.

He said: "There will be 20 teams in the Premier Division next season so there will be four teams expected to go down.

"The re-structure and plans come from the FA - it is their decision - and I understand they have now put out that no more than four teams will be relegated.

"I think there will probably also be some lateral movement from the league though, such as Saffron Walden to an Essex league, so seven teams could still be leaving the Premier Division but not through relegation.

"I think we have already told the various clubs of this development but we will also have a meeting in March to communicate it.

"No one has come to me about any concerns but I'm happy to talk to any club who want to speak about it.

"The final decisions do, ultimately, get made by the FA though."

Hutchings confirmation will be met with relief by a number of Premier Division sides who have expressed concern over the uncertainty of what constitutes a 'safe spot' in the league table.

The far-reaching changes will see additional divisions created at Steps 3 and 4 of the non-league structure, to be controlled by the Southern and Isthmian Leagues respectively.

In addition to this there will also be Step 6 divisions in the North West and Essex/East Anglian areas which will be managed by the North West Counties and Eastern Counties League (Thurlow Nunn) respectively.

The changes at Step 3 and 4 have arisen following insight gained from clubs during 2015 owing to the large driving times and distances required as well as a desire to 'level the playing field' with the number of teams in each league.

While the membership of the divisions will remain unknown until finishing positions are established, simulation work has been carried out to ensure that the transition is smooth.

Alongside four teams facing the drop, more teams will also face promotion with 26 teams due to be promoted from Step 5 nationally, as opposed to the usual 14, with this being a mandatory requirement for the 14 champions and 12 best-placed runners-up on a points-per-game basis.

The promotion application process for teams at Steps 7 and 6 will remain the same.