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English football league system

From Academic Kids

The English football league system is a series of interconnected leagues for club football in England (though for historical reasons — namely that the league system was originally intended to be United Kingdom-wide — a small number of Welsh clubs also compete).

Contents

Structure

At the top is the FA Premier League, a single-division league of 20 clubs. Below is The Football League, which is divided into three divisions of 24 clubs. These 92 clubs are all full-time professional. Confusingly all 92 are often referred to as "league" clubs because there was a single 4-division, 92-team league before the Premier League was established in 1992. Clubs outside this group are referred to as "non-league" clubs, although they all play most of their football in league competitions.

The top tier of "non-league" football is the Football Conference, which contains a national division of 22 clubs followed by divisions covering the north and south of England (and parts of Wales), again with 22 clubs each. Some of these clubs are full-time professional and the others are semi-professional. Below the Conference some of the stronger clubs are semi-professional, but continuing down the tiers, soon all the clubs are amateur.

Next down from the Football Conference are three regional leagues, each associated different geographical areas (though they often overlap): the Northern Premier League covers the north of England; the Southern League covers the south of England (except the South East), the Midlands and parts of Wales and the Isthmian League covers the South East. Each of these leagues has a Premier Division, with a First Division below (except the Southern League, which has two parallel divisions, East and West, below the Premier Division).

Only the Isthmian league has a Second Division, which is on the same level as the top divisions of the North West Counties Football League, the Northern Counties East Football League, the Northern League, the Western Football League, the Wessex League, the Sussex County Football League, the Hellenic Football League, the Midland Football Alliance, the United Counties Football League, the Eastern Counties Football League, the Kent League, the Spartan South Midlands Football League, the Combined Counties Football League and the Essex Senior Football League.

Each of these leagues has a different divisional set up, but they all have one thing in common: there are yet more leagues below them, each covering smaller and smaller geographical levels. In some areas, there are more than twenty levels to the league system. The leagues from the fifth to eleventh levels inclusive are collectively known as the National League System and are tightly controlled by the FA.

Each league sets its own rules, but all follow the general standard of each club playing everyone else twice with three points being awarded for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. The league table is always ordered with whoever has the most points at the top and the least at the bottom (ways of distinguishing between clubs level on points differ from league to league). Various degrees of promotion and relegation exist between all the leagues and divisions, meaning that any team can theoretically climb (or fall) to any level. However, minimum standards for grounds (floodlighting, seating capacity, etc) sometimes lead to clubs being denied promotion even though their league position would allow it.

The system

Below shows how the current system works. For each division, its official name, sponsorship name (which often differs radically from its official name) and number of clubs is given. Each division promotes to the division(s) that lie directly above them and relegates to the division(s) that lie directly below them:

Level

League(s)/Division(s)

1

FA Premier League
(Barclays Premiership)
20 clubs

2

Football League Championship
(Coca-Cola Football League Championship)
24 clubs

3

Football League One
(Coca-Cola Football League 1)
24 clubs

4

Football League Two
(Coca-Cola Football League 2)
24 clubs

5

Conference National
(Nationwide Conference)
22 clubs

6

Conference North
(Nationwide North)
22 clubs

Conference South
(Nationwide South)
22 clubs

7

Northern Premier League Premier Division
(UniBond League Premier Division)
22 clubs

Southern League Premier Division
22 clubs

Isthmian League Premier Division
(Ryman Football League Premier Division)
22 clubs

8

Northern Premier League First Division
(UniBond League First Division)
22 clubs

Southern League Division One West
22 clubs

Southern League Division One East
22 clubs

Isthmian League First Division
(Ryman Football League Division One)
22 clubs

9

North West Counties Football League Division One (Moore & Co Construction Solicitors League Division One) 22 clubs
Northern Counties East Football League Premier Division 20 clubs
Northern League Division One (Albany Northern League Division One) 21 clubs
Western Football League Premier Division (Screwfix Direct Western Football League Premier Division) 20 clubs
Wessex League Division One (Sydenhams Wessex League Division One) 20 clubs
Sussex County Football League Division 1 (Matthew Clark Sussex County Football League Division 1) 20 clubs
Hellenic Football League Premier Division (Gladwish Land Sales Hellenic Football League Premier Division) 22 clubs
Midland Football Alliance (Travel Factory Alliance) 24 clubs
United Counties Football League Premier Division (Eagle Bitter United Counties League Premier Division) 20 clubs
Eastern Counties Football League Premier Division (Ridgeons Football League Premier Division) 20 clubs
Kent League Premier Division (Go Travel Kent Football League Premier Division) 17 clubs
Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division (Minerva Footballs Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division) 20 clubs
Combined Counties Football League Premier Division (Seagrave Haulage League Premier Division) 24 clubs
Essex Senior Football League (Eastway Essex Senior League) 17 clubs
Isthmian League Second Division (Ryman Football League Division Two) 16 clubs
(All divisions run in parallel)

10+

Many more regional leagues/divisions (see articles on leagues above for their immediate feeders)


The system from 2006-2007

From the 2006-07 season, there will be a number of changes to the lower levels of the system. Firstly, Conference National (Level 5) will increase to twenty-four clubs. Levels 6 and 7 will remain unchanged, but the Northern Premier League and Isthmian League will each gain a new division at Level 8 to run in parallel with their existing First Divisions (and bring them into line with the Southern League, which already has two First Divisions). Each Level 8 division will now have twenty clubs. At Level 9, the number of divisions operating will be reduced from fifteen to tweleve, with the Isthmian League Second Division and two as-yet-undecided divisions being discontinued. Each Level 9 division will have between eighteen and twenty clubs.

It is hoped that the restructuring will improve the lower levels of the system in a number of ways. There will be less traveling for the Level 8 clubs as the will be six divisions, not four (this will be of particular benefit to Midlands-based clubs who will now compete in either the Northern Premier League First Division (Midlands) or Southern League Division One South-West, rather than the geographically larger older divisions. There should also be less overlapping at Level 9. Furthermore (with the exception of between Levels 6 and 7), the promotion and relegation between divisions will become fixed again with no need for a committee to place clubs in different divisions.

For each division, its official name, sponsorship name (which often differs radically from its official name) and number of clubs is given. The names of each league and division have not yet been confirmed and may change before the 2006-2007 season begins. Each division promotes to the division(s) that lie directly above them and relegates to the division(s) that lie directly below them:

Level

League(s)/Division(s)

1

FA Premier League
(Barclays Premiership)
20 clubs

2

Football League Championship
(Coca-Cola Football League Championship)
24 clubs

3

Football League One
(Coca-Cola Football League 1)
24 clubs

4

Football League Two
(Coca-Cola Football League 2)
24 clubs

5

Conference National
(Nationwide Conference)
24 clubs

6

Conference North
(Nationwide North)
22 clubs

Conference South
(Nationwide South)
22 clubs

7

Northern Premier League Premier Division
(UniBond League Premier Division)
22 clubs

Southern League Premier Division
22 clubs

Isthmian League Premier Division
(Ryman Football League Premier Division)
22 clubs

8

Northern Premier League First Division (North)
(UniBond League First Division (North))
20 clubs

Northern Premier League First Division (Midlands)
(UniBond League First Division (Midlands))
20 clubs

Southern League Division One South-West
20 clubs

Southern League Division One South
20 clubs

Isthmian League First Division (North)
(Ryman Football League Division One (North))
20 clubs

Isthmian League First Division (South)
(Ryman Football League Division One (South))
20 clubs

9

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

Level 9 division*
18-20 clubs

10+

Many more regional leagues/divisions

* Tweleve of the following fourteen divisions will make up Level 9: North West Counties Football League Division One; Northern Counties East Football League Premier Division; Northern League Division One; Western Football League Premier Division; Wessex League Division One; Sussex County Football League Division 1; Hellenic Football League Premier Division; Midland Football Alliance; United Counties Football League Premier Division; Eastern Counties Football League Premier Division; Kent League Premier Division; Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division; Combined Counties Football League Premier Division; Essex Senior Football League

See also



Football in England

League competitions

The FA

Cup competitions

FA Premier League FA Cup
The Football League (Champ, 1, 2) England
(men)
League Cup
Football Conference (Nat, N, S) FA Community Shield
Northern Premier League (Prem, 1) (women) Football League Trophy
Southern League (Prem, 1W, 1E) List of
clubs
FA Trophy
Isthmian League (Prem, 1, 2) FA Vase
English football league system Records FA NLS Cup

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