How many teams are promoted from the National League? How automatic promotion and play-off system works
Wrexham and Notts County are both vying for a place in the Football League
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The National League is locked in talks to secure an extra promotion place to League Two, according to reports.
The change would provide a huge shake-up in the English Football League pyramid and would offer further incentives to clubs in the fifth tier of football. This season the likes of Wrexham and Notts County are both flying high with over 100 points as they continue to provide one of the most hotly contested promotion races in recent history.
But how many automatic promotion places are there for teams in the fifth tier and how does the play-off format work in the National League? Here is everything you need to know.
How does the National League promotion system work?
Wrexham and Notts County have both dominated the National League this season by hitting the 100 points mark. Both have been the standout teams of their division and between them they have scored a combined total of 223 goals and counting.
The two teams have been head and shoulders over the rest of the division in terms of their points tally, but only one side is guaranteed an automatic promotion spot to League Two.
As it stands Wrexham are just one victory away from the title ahead of their final two games against play-off chasing Boreham Wood and relegation strugglers Torquay.
However, they will face stiff competition from Notts County who face an already relegated Maidstone United side and strugglers York City in their final two games.
The eventual champions of the National League will gain automatic promotion to the Football League while six remaining teams will battle it out for promotion via the play-offs.
National League play-off system
Up until the 2001/2002 season there was only one promotion place available for teams in the fifth-tier with the league champions earning a spot in League Two. This changed in 2003 and Doncaster Rovers became the first side in history to earn a place in the Football League via the play-offs and they did so with a 3-2 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge in the final at the Britannia Stadium.
Since 2003 there have been two promotion places available for teams in the fifth tier of English football and two sides have subsequently been relegated from League Two each year. The play-offs have played a decisive role in the promotion battle at the end of the season and current league leaders Wrexham have suffered the heartbreak of defeat in the play-offs on five occasions since their relegation from the Football League in 2008.
The current play-off format, which was revamped in 2017/18 sees the six teams ranked 2nd to 7th compete for a final promotion spot. The teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the league join the play-offs at the semi-final stage while the teams ranked 4th to 7th battle begin at the quarter-final phase. In recent years the likes of Grimsby Town, Hartlepool United and Harrogate Town have all secured a place in League Two through the play-offs.
Will the National League get an extra promotion place?
The National League is viewed as one of the most difficult divisions to be promoted from in English football and many clubs struggle to win promotion at the first time of asking.
However, a new report in the Daily Mail states that an extra one could be up for grabs in the near future. The report states that the EFL are ready to offer three promotion places to teams in the National League as part of their financial reset being demanded by chairman Rick Parry.
The rules regarding the ELF’s promotion and relegation system would need to be approved via votes from a majority of clubs and it would not be introduced until next season at the very earliest. This means that the runner-up in this season’s National League will be forced to battle their way to promotion via the play-offs despite beating the 100 point mark.
What did Ryan Reynolds say about National League promotion?
Wrexham owner Ryan Reynolds believes it is “insane” that only one club is guaranteed an automatic promotion spot.
Speaking after his side’s crucial 3-2 victory against Notts County, he said: “It’s just insane to me in this league that only one goes up automatically. If it were different - and I think it should be - both of these clubs would be celebrating together right now.” Wrexham need a maximum of seven points from their remaining four games to win the National League title and secure automatic promotion.
What did Luke Williams say about National League promotion?
Notts County manager Luke Williams has urged his players to remain focused as they head into the final phase of the season and he refuses to let anyone “feel sorry” for his side even if they do miss out on promotion.
Williams’ team need just one victory to surpass the previous record points tally for a season in the fifth tier. But despite their tremendous form they are relying on Wrexham to slip up.
He said: “I prefer we make no excuses and that we’re ready for whatever comes our way. We know it’s going to be big and will require people to be in the right frame of mind. I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for themselves until the final whistle goes on the season, whenever that is.”
Williams added: “Of course I am aware that we can be immaculate in football, be absolutely top and still get nothing. I know every single thing gets heightened and potentially they can slip into a pitfall of feeling sorry for themselves.
“We have a lot of points and we have had tough moments and we have to still keep going. I feel on the edge because this is a really good group - group of players, this group of spectators, fans, fanatics - and this (promotion) is what they deserve.”