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Northern Premier League

From Academic Kids

The Northern Premier League, known in recent years as the UniBond League under a title sponsorship contract, is one of the three regional English football leagues whose champions are promoted to the Football Conference, currently called the Nationwide Conference. From now on its champions will be promoted to the Conference North division rather than the national.

The Northern Premier League was founded in 1968, decades after the other two leagues at what is now the seventh tier of the English football league system - the Dr Martens Southern League and Ryman Isthmian League. At that time it was considered to share the fifth tier with these leagues as well as the established Northern League. Over the next two decades, the NPL successfully displaced its older rival to become the preeminent regional competition in northern England, with the Northern League eventually forced to accept status as feeder league to the NPL. The creation of what is now the Conference in 1979 and the Conference's addition of regional divisions in 2004 have effectively "demoted" the NPL by two tiers.

The League has two divisions. The Premier Division has 22 clubs and the champions win promotion to the Football Conference. The First Division also has 22 clubs and its champion exchanges places with the Premier Division's bottom side. Promotion to the First Division is possible from each of three leagues covering smaller sections of northern England, the Albany Northern League, the Northern Counties East League, and the 'Moore & Co. Solicitors North West Counties League.

From 1999 until 2004, the NPL Premier Division had 23 clubs. This was due to the league's belated admission of Barrow A.F.C. for the 1999-2000 season following a bitter dispute between the league, Barrow and the Football Association. The NPL had been very reluctant to admit Barrow as the club had just been expelled from the Conference due to finiancial problems. However, Barrow was elected to the league a month after the season commenced when the Football Association threatened severe sanctions against the league, which would have included the expulsion of its clubs from the FA Cup and FA Trophy.

With the restructuring beginning with the 2004-05 season, the Premier Division decreased from 23 to 22 clubs. The champion of this division together with the winner of a playoff between the second to fifth place finishers will be promoted to Conference North, and the bottom four clubs will be relegated to the First Division, or to another division at the same level of the National League System pyramid. For the First Division, the champions and second place club will be promoted to the Premier Division, along with the winner of a playoff between the third to sixth place clubs. A fourth club will be promoted to the Premier Division from one of the other divisions at this level. The bottom two clubs of the First Division will be relegated to one of the three feeder leagues, the Northern League, Northern Counties East League, or North West Counties League, to be replaced by two of the champions of these leagues.

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