With step 5 supposedly to become rationed to twelve divisions and step 6 already looking like a rather threadbare rump of a feeder level, would it not then be a sensible idea to bolster that level to provide a proper stepping stone between today's 17 step 6' & 43 step 7's?
There's likely to be some forty-odd teams dropping from step 5 to step 6 in short order, when the 'big change' comes to fruition, probably spread such that there are then 18 divisions with slightly enlarged numbers in membership so created (discounting any 'grading casualties' likely over the coming seasons as grades F?-H? bite) and some may well be of the opinion that that is a sufficient umber of divisions.
However, there are vast areas of the country still with no/little representation at this level and it's my belief that the Cumbrias, Anglias, Yorkshires, etc. to name the most glaring 'holes' ought to be brought-up to fill the level to say, 24 divisions - allowing 4-down/2-up between step 5 & step 6, likely requiring pooling, as I cannot initially see too many good matches between pairs of feeders to 'parent' higher divisions.
I'm not necessarily advocating the abandonment of grading with this idea, although I think that in general, grading standards are plain loopy - I'm just proposing that teams which qualify on the field to get into step 6 are not prevented from their aspirations by the double-whammy of the expense of attaining gradings, plus the added expense of moving to a division notionally having an area one seventeenth the size of the country, from one which is one forty-third the size.
Instead of the 17:43 ratio, give them a more manageable 24:48 ratio (likely inducting a fair few level-12 teams into step 7) and furthermore, give grading allowances in respect of the amount of time to bring grounds up to the basic grading requirement at step 7. Each team given this allowance would need yearly monitoring, with a program of improvements to be made yearly until the commensurate grade is reached and a single seasonal failure could be punished via demotion.
'Allowance' teams at step 7 might be ignored in respect of the occupation of promotion positions, much the same way as reserve teams may be currently in some levels of current competitions and promotion may be given to highest pair of qualifying teams in division, subject to finishing in top four/five.
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