Ground Grading and Ground Improvement

Ground Grading and Ground Improvement

The FA National League System (NLS) and Women’s Pyramid provide a structure for the senior levels of the male and female game respectively in England.

The NLS operates directly below the English Football League (EFL) League 2 through to county level Step 7 represented in Oxfordshire by the Oxfordshire Senior League Premier Division. Similarly, the Women’s Pyramid begins immediately below the Women’s Super League 2 and ends at county league level Step 6.

The FA work closely with both structures to implement a standardised set of facility requirements, or ground grades, to ensure club facilities are of a sufficient standard to cater for the playing and safety needs of the game at that level. Any club wishing to enter either structure or progress within it must meet the ground grading at the desired level before they are able to proceed. 
The male NLS steps, grades and links to requirements for Oxfordshire are as follows:

Grade A Step 1, National League   Information Sheet (Grade A)
Grade B Step 2, National League South   Information Sheet (Grade B)
Grade C Step 3, Southern League Premier Division   Information Sheet (Grade C)
Grade D Step 4, Southern League Division One
 Information Sheet (Grade D)
Grade E The entry requirement for Step 4
 Information Sheet (Grade E)
Grade F Step 5, Hellenic League Premier Division
 Information Sheet (Grade F)
Grade G Step 6, Hellenic League Division One
 Information Sheet (Grade G)
Grade H The entry requirement for Step 6
 Information Sheet (Grade H)
Minimum Grading Requirements Step 7, Oxfordshire Senior League Premier Division  Information Sheet (MGR)

The Women’s Pyramid steps and grades for Oxfordshire are as follows:

Grade A Step 1, FA Women’s Premier League - National Division 
Grade A Step 2, FA Women’s Premier League - National Division 
Grade B Step 3, South West Women’s Combination League 
Grade C Step 4, Southern Women’s Regional League – Premier Division
N/A Step 5, Southern Women’s Regional League – Division One 
N/A Step 6, Thames Valley Women’s League 
The grading requirements for the Women’s Pyramid can be found here.

Need Funding?

The Premier League Stadium Fund provides financial support to football clubs towards their ground improvement projects. 

Funded by the Premier League with an annual budget of £6m, the fund awards capital grants to clubs from the Football League down to the lower levels of the FA National League System to improve safety at their stadia and to enable them to satisfy The FA’s ground grading requirements.

For more information on the Premier League Stadium Fund and what is available, simply visit their website.


Funding demand almost always outstrips the monies available and is highly competitive. 
Decisions are largely based on need and therefore aspirational projects are very likely to be unsuccessful. The Premier League Stadium Fund provides grant aid for clubs to meet the membership conditions of their current league. Promoted clubs are eligible to apply for grant aid to meet the membership conditions of their new league but only after promotion has been confirmed.
From a budgeting and management perspective it is always advisable to progress your facilities off the pitch in line with performance on it and in that way improvements can be made gradually and within current means.

3G Football Turf Pitches are permitted in the National League System as long as they are compliant with The FA ground grading criteria at that level. 

For NLS Steps 1-2 a FIFA Quality Pro surface is required with Steps 3-7 and the Women’s Pyramid requiring the FIFA Quality surface. One of the major considerations when looking at a 3G Football Turf Pitch is the permitted usage levels to maintain the required test certificate. 

Typically FIFA Quality Pro pitches can accommodate up to 20 hours use per week and are tested annually. FIFA Quality pitches can accommodate far greater use and are tested every three years.

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