A Guide to England National League

The England National League is a professional football league in England. It is one of the top leagues in the National League System (NLS) and is the fifth tier of the English football league system. The league consists of 24 teams, with the top team being promoted to EFL League Two and the bottom four teams being relegated to the National League North or South.

The National League has a rich history dating back to 1979 when it was first formed as the Alliance Premier League. Over the years, it has undergone several name changes and has become one of the most competitive and exciting leagues in English football. The league is known for its passionate fans, intense rivalries, and unpredictable results. It is also a popular destination for scouts and agents looking to discover talented players who may have been overlooked by the bigger clubs.

If you are a football fan or just looking to learn more about the England National League, this guide is for you. It provides a comprehensive overview of the league, including its history, structure, and teams. Whether you are interested in the league’s top scorers, fixtures, or tables, this guide has got you covered. So, sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of the England National League.

History of England National League

The National League, previously known as the Football Conference, is the topmost level of non-league football in England. It was formed in 1979 as the Alliance Premier League, with teams from the Northern Premier League and Southern League. The league wanted to improve the quality of football at the lower level and increase the financial status of the top clubs.

The National League has 24 teams, and the season runs from August to May. The league has three promotion places to the English Football League (EFL) and four relegation places to the National League North or National League South, depending on the club’s location.

The National League has gone through several name changes over the years. It was known as the Football Conference from 1986 until 2015 when it was renamed the Vanarama National League for sponsorship reasons. The league was renamed to its current name, the National League, in 2019.

The National League has been a stepping stone for many clubs to get to the EFL, including Crawley Town, Fleetwood Town, and Forest Green Rovers. The league has also seen former EFL clubs, such as Lincoln City and Tranmere Rovers, compete in recent years.

The National League is an important part of the English football pyramid, which is a series of interconnected leagues for football clubs in England, Wales, Guernsey, Jersey, and Isle of Man. The pyramid has a hierarchical format where the best performing teams (divisions 2-10) go through promotion to a higher-level league. The National League is the fifth tier of the pyramid, below The Championship, League One, League Two, and the National League North and South.

Structure and Competition Format

The National League System (NLS) is the structure of the English football league system that provides a clear pathway from Step 7 through to the English Football League (EFL). It aims to provide clubs with a level of competition appropriate to their playing ability, stadium/ground facilities, and geographical location. The NLS also provides for the seasonal movement of clubs.

The NLS consists of six steps, with the National League being the top tier of the non-league pyramid. Two teams from the National League can be promoted to EFL League Two at the end of each season. The NLS is bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation, with the best-performing teams in each division moving up to a higher-level league, and the worst-performing teams moving down to a lower-level league.

The regular season in the National League runs from August to May, with each team playing 46 games. The team with the most points at the end of the season is crowned the National League champions. The champions are automatically promoted to EFL League Two for the following season.

The National League playoffs are contested by the teams that finish between second and seventh place in the regular season. The playoffs consist of a semi-final and a final, with the winner of the final being promoted to EFL League Two.

The National League North and National League South are the second tier of the NLS and are regionalised into North and South divisions. The winners of each division are automatically promoted to the National League, while the teams that finish between second and seventh place in each division compete in the playoffs for a chance to be promoted.

In summary, the National League System provides a clear pathway for non-league clubs to progress to the English Football League. The system is structured with six steps, with promotion and relegation being the key principle that binds the system together. The regular season runs from August to May, with the National League champions being automatically promoted to EFL League Two. The playoffs are contested by the teams that finish between second and seventh place in the regular season, with the winner of the final being promoted to EFL League Two.

Teams in the National League

The National League is composed of 24 teams, each vying for the top spot in the league. Here is a brief overview of the teams that make up the National League:

Notts County

Notts County is a professional football club based in Nottinghamshire. They were founded in 1862, and have a long history of playing in the Football League. They are one of the most successful clubs in English football history, having won numerous league titles and cups.

Barnet

Barnet is a professional football club based in North London. They were founded in 1888, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the Conference Premier in 2005 and 2015.

Boreham Wood

Boreham Wood is a professional football club based in Hertfordshire. They were founded in 1948, and have a relatively short history in English football. They have had some success in recent years, finishing in the top half of the National League for the past few seasons.

Altrincham

Altrincham is a professional football club based in Greater Manchester. They were founded in 1891, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the Conference North in 2014.

Torquay United

Torquay United is a professional football club based in Devon. They were founded in 1899, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the National League South in 2019.

Maidstone United

Maidstone United is a professional football club based in Kent. They were founded in 1992, and have a relatively short history in English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the Isthmian League Premier Division in 2015.

Wrexham

Wrexham is a professional football club based in North Wales. They were founded in 1864, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, reaching the National League Play-Off Final in 2021.

Chesterfield

Chesterfield is a professional football club based in Derbyshire. They were founded in 1866, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the National League in 2011.

Bromley

Bromley is a professional football club based in South London. They were founded in 1892, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, finishing in the top half of the National League for the past few seasons.

Southend United

Southend United is a professional football club based in Essex. They were founded in 1906, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the League Two Play-Off Final in 2015.

Gateshead

Gateshead is a professional football club based in Tyne and Wear. They were founded in 1977, and have a relatively short history in English football. They have had some success in recent years, finishing in the top half of the National League for the past few seasons.

Dorking Wanderers

Dorking Wanderers is a professional football club based in Surrey. They were founded in 1999, and have a relatively short history in English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the Isthmian League Premier Division in 2019.

Yeovil Town

Yeovil Town is a professional football club based in Somerset. They were founded in 1895, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the National League in 2003.

York City

York City is a professional football club based in North Yorkshire. They were founded in 1908, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, winning the National League North in 2019.

Maidenhead United

Maidenhead United is a professional football club based in Berkshire. They were founded in 1870, and have a long history of playing in the lower leagues of English football. They have had some success in recent years, finishing in the top half of the National League for the past few seasons.

Solihull Moors

Solihull Moors is a professional football club based in the West Midlands. They were founded in 2007, and have a relatively short history

Key Players and Stats

The National League is a professional football league in England, known for its intense competition and talented players. In the 2022-2023 season, several players have stood out for their exceptional performances on the field. Here are some key players and stats to keep an eye on:

Top Scorers

One of the most exciting aspects of the National League is the fierce competition among top scorers. As of the current date, Macaulay Langstaff from Notts County is leading the pack with an impressive 42 goals. Other notable top scorers include Rhys Healey from Wrexham with 29 goals and Alex Reid from Stockport County with 27 goals.

Wins and Points

Wrexham is currently leading the championship with 104 points and 31 wins, followed by Stockport County with 88 points and 26 wins. These two teams have been dominant throughout the season, and their success can be attributed to their talented players and strong team dynamics.

Clean Sheets

A clean sheet refers to a game in which a team does not concede any goals. In the National League, several teams have had impressive clean sheet records this season. Bromley and Wrexham are tied for the most clean sheets with 21 each, followed by Stockport County with 20. These teams have strong defensive players who are able to keep the opposing team from scoring.

Half-Time Stats

Half-time stats can provide valuable insights into a team’s performance and strategy. In the National League, the team with the most goals in the first half is Wrexham with 48, followed by Stockport County with 46. The team with the most goals in the second half is Notts County with 54, followed by Wrexham with 51. These stats suggest that Wrexham is a strong team overall, with a particularly strong performance in the first half.

Goals For and Goals Against

Goals for and goals against are important indicators of a team’s offensive and defensive capabilities. Wrexham has scored the most goals this season with 111, followed by Notts County with 95. On the defensive side, Bromley has conceded the fewest goals with 35, followed by Wrexham with 37. These stats suggest that Wrexham is a well-rounded team with both strong offensive and defensive capabilities.

Overall, the National League is a highly competitive league with talented players and strong teams. By keeping an eye on key players and stats, fans can gain a deeper understanding of the league and its dynamics.

Promotion and Relegation

The English National League operates a promotion and relegation system that allows teams to move up and down the league pyramid based on their performance over the course of a season. At the end of each season, the top teams in the National League are promoted to League Two, while the bottom teams are relegated to the National League North or South, depending on their location.

Promotion to League Two is highly coveted by National League teams, as it represents a significant step up in the football pyramid. League Two is the fourth tier of English football and is part of the English Football League (EFL), which includes the top four tiers of English football. The National League champions are automatically promoted to League Two, while the teams that finish second through seventh compete in a playoff for the final promotion spot.

Relegation from the National League can be a devastating blow for teams, as it means dropping down to the sixth tier of English football. However, teams that are relegated from the National League North or South have the opportunity to bounce back the following season by winning their respective leagues and earning promotion back to the National League.

The promotion and relegation system in English football is a key feature of the game and is what makes it unique compared to other football leagues around the world. It allows even the smallest clubs in the country to dream of rising to the very top of the league pyramid and joining the elite group of teams known as “the 92”, which includes all the teams in the top four tiers of English football.

Overall, the promotion and relegation system in the English National League is a fair and exciting way to determine which teams move up and down the league pyramid each season. It provides opportunities for teams to achieve their goals and dreams, while also ensuring that the best teams are rewarded for their performances on the pitch.

Non-League Football

Non-League football refers to all levels of football in England outside the top four professional leagues, namely the Premier League, Championship, League One, and League Two. The term “non-League” has been in use for a long time before the creation of the Premier League in 1992. Before this time, the top football clubs in England belonged to The Football League (now the EFL), and the Football League was commonly referred to as “the League,” and its clubs were “League clubs.” Therefore, all clubs that were not part of the Football League were referred to as non-League clubs.

Non-League football comprises of several tiers, with the National League System (NLS) at the top. The NLS consists of seven levels, with the Premier Division at the top and the County Leagues at the bottom. The top three levels of the NLS are known as the National League, and they are the only non-League levels that are eligible for promotion to the EFL.

The National League is the fifth tier of English football and is made up of 24 teams. The Northern Premier League, the Isthmian League, and the Southern League make up the sixth tier, with each league comprising of 22 teams. The seventh tier is made up of 84 teams, divided into 12 regional leagues of varying sizes.

Non-League football is known for its passionate fans, community spirit, and the opportunity for clubs to rise through the ranks and achieve success. Many famous clubs have started their journey in non-League football, including AFC Wimbledon, who worked their way up from the ninth tier to the Football League in just nine seasons.

Non-League football also provides opportunities for players to showcase their talent and potentially move up the ranks to professional football. Many players have started their careers in non-League football and have gone on to play at the highest level, including Jamie Vardy, who started his career at Stocksbridge Park Steels in the Northern Premier League.

Overall, non-League football is an essential part of English football, providing opportunities for clubs and players to achieve success and contribute to the rich tapestry of the sport.

Sponsorship and Partnerships

The National League has several sponsors and partners that help to keep the league running smoothly. One of the major sponsors of the National League is Vanarama, a UK-based vehicle leasing company. The league is officially known as the Vanarama National League due to this sponsorship. Vanarama has been a sponsor of the National League since 2014 and has been instrumental in helping to raise the profile of the league.

In addition to Vanarama, the National League has several other sponsors and partners. One of these partners is General Motors, which provides vehicles to the league for use by officials and staff. General Motors is a well-known brand in the automotive industry and its partnership with the National League is a testament to the league’s growing reputation.

Other partners of the National League include the National League U19 Alliance, which is a competition for 16-19-year-old male players who combine training and playing in organised football fixtures, whilst furthering their studies with an approved Education Provider. The league also partners with UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, to promote, protect and develop European football.

The National League has a strong commitment to its sponsors and partners, and works hard to ensure that they receive maximum exposure and value for their investment. The league also offers a range of commercial partnership opportunities for businesses looking to get involved with the league. Interested parties can get in touch with the league to find out more about these opportunities.

Overall, the National League’s sponsors and partners play an important role in the success of the league. Their support helps to ensure that the league can continue to provide high-quality football to fans across the UK.

Stadiums and Venues

The England National League is home to a variety of stadiums and venues. Each team has its own ground, with some of the more popular stadiums also hosting other events such as music concerts and rugby matches. Here are some of the most notable stadiums in the league:

  • Victoria Park – home to Hartlepool United, Victoria Park has a capacity of over 7,800 and is one of the largest stadiums in the league. It has been the home of Hartlepool United since 1908 and has undergone several renovations over the years.
  • Roots Hall – located in Southend-on-Sea, Roots Hall is home to Southend United. The stadium has a capacity of just over 12,000 and has been the home of Southend United since 1955. It has undergone several renovations over the years, including the addition of a new stand in 2019.
  • The Shay – home to FC Halifax Town, The Shay has a capacity of over 14,000 and is one of the largest stadiums in the league. It has been the home of FC Halifax Town since 1921 and has undergone several renovations over the years.
  • Meadow Lane – located in Nottingham, Meadow Lane is home to Notts County. The stadium has a capacity of just over 19,000 and has been the home of Notts County since 1910. It has undergone several renovations over the years, including the addition of a new stand in 2019.
  • The Hive Stadium – located in Edgware, The Hive Stadium is home to Barnet. The stadium has a capacity of just over 6,000 and has been the home of Barnet since 2013. It has undergone several renovations over the years, including the addition of a new stand in 2018.

These are just a few of the many stadiums and venues in the England National League. Each ground has its own unique history and character, making it an exciting experience for fans to visit and support their team.

The National League and the FA Cup

The National League is the top league of the National League System (NLS) in English football, operating directly below League Two of the English Football League (EFL). The league comprises 24 teams and is the lowest level with a single nationwide league. Two divisions, National League North and National League South, cover the north and south regions of England, respectively, with 22 clubs each.

The National League is also a member of The Football Association (FA) and participates in the FA Cup, the oldest national football competition in the world. The FA Cup is an annual knockout football competition in men’s domestic English football, first played during the 1871-72 season. The competition is open to all clubs in the top ten levels of the English football league system, including the National League.

The FA Cup is a prestigious competition that provides an opportunity for lower league teams to compete against higher league teams. The National League teams enter the competition in the fourth qualifying round, with the winners of this round progressing to the first round proper. The National League teams are often considered underdogs in the competition, but they have caused upsets in the past, with some teams reaching the later stages of the competition.

The National League also has its own competition, the National League Playoffs, which is a knockout competition that determines the final promotion place to the EFL. The playoffs involve the teams that finish in the positions from second to seventh in the National League, with the winner of the final earning promotion to League Two.

In conclusion, the National League is an important part of the English football league system, operating directly below League Two. The league participates in the prestigious FA Cup, providing an opportunity for lower league teams to compete against higher league teams. The National League also has its own competition, the National League Playoffs, which determines the final promotion place to the EFL.

Famous Success Stories

The National League has been a platform for many clubs to showcase their talent and rise to success. Here are some of the most famous success stories:

Fleetwood Town

Fleetwood Town is a prime example of a club that has made the most of their time in the National League. They were promoted to the league in 2010 and after just five seasons, they were promoted to League One. In 2019, they narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship after losing in the playoffs.

AFC Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon’s success story is a unique one. The club was formed in 2002 by fans who were unhappy with the decision to relocate Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes. The newly-formed club started from scratch in the Combined Counties League, which is several tiers below the National League. However, they worked their way up through the leagues and were promoted to the National League in 2011. In 2016, they were promoted to League One, completing a remarkable rise through the leagues.

Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers have been in the National League since 2010 and have been a consistent presence near the top of the table. In 2017, they were promoted to League Two, becoming the first vegan football club in the world to play in the Football League. They narrowly missed out on promotion to League One in 2021, losing in the playoffs.

Domestic League

The National League has also been a stepping stone for many players to make it to the domestic leagues. Players such as Jamie Vardy, who played for Fleetwood Town before moving to Leicester City and helping them win the Premier League, and Ollie Watkins, who played for Exeter City before moving to Brentford and then Aston Villa, have used the National League as a platform to showcase their talent and make it to the top level of English football.

Frequently Asked Questions

What level is English National League?

The English National League is the fifth tier of the English football league system. It is also known as the Vanarama National League due to its sponsorship by Vanarama.

What is Step 7 in football?

Step 7 is the seventh level of the English football league system. It is also known as the county leagues and is the lowest level of the National League System. Clubs at this level are usually amateur and are often affiliated with their local County Football Association.

What is the lowest level of English football?

The lowest level of the English football league system is Step 11. This is the level at which local Sunday league teams can enter the pyramid. The leagues at this level are known as the Regional Feeder Leagues and are not part of the National League System.

How do you get into the National League?

To get into the National League, a team must first be promoted from the league below it. This means that a team must finish in the top positions of its league and then win the playoffs to be promoted. In addition, the team must meet certain criteria related to its stadium facilities and finances.

What are the National League promotion rules?

The National League has one automatic promotion place, which goes to the team that finishes first in the league. The teams that finish second to seventh enter a playoff competition, with the winner being promoted to the EFL League Two.

How many teams get promoted from the National League?

Only one team is promoted automatically from the National League to the EFL League Two. The team that finishes second in the league enters a playoff competition with teams from League Two, League One, and the Championship, with the winner being promoted to the Championship.


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