National League (division)

National League
National League logo.png
Founded 1979
(as Alliance Premier League)
Country   England
Other club(s) from   Wales
Number of teams 24
Level on pyramid 5
Step 1 ( National League System)
Promotion to League Two
Relegation to National League North
National League South
Domestic cup(s) FA Cup
FA Trophy
International cup(s) Europa League
(via FA Cup)
Current champions Lincoln City
( 2016–17)
Most championships Barnet (3 titles)
TV partners BT Sport
Website National League
2017–18 National League

The National League, currently named the Vanarama National League for sponsorship reasons, [1] is the top division of the National League in English football. It is the highest level of the National League System and fifth-highest of the overall English football league system. While all of the clubs in the top four divisions of English football are full-time professional, the National League has a mixture of full-time and semi-professional clubs. The National League is the lowest division in the English football pyramid organised on a nationwide basis. Formerly the Conference National, the league was renamed the National League from the 2015–16 season. [2]

History

The last attempt to create a fully national league underneath the English Football League (EFL) had been the Football Alliance, which was absorbed as Football League Second Division in 1892.

The league was formed as the Alliance Premier League in 1979, coming into force for the 1979–80 season. The league drew its clubs from the Northern Premier League and the Southern League.

It greatly improved the quality of football at this lower level, as well as improving the financial status of the top clubs. This was reflected in 1986–87, when the EFL began accepting direct promotion and relegation between the Conference and the bottom division of the English Football League, which at that time was known as the Football League Fourth Division and is now EFL League Two. The first team to be promoted by this method was Scarborough, whereas the first team relegated was Lincoln City, who regained their Football League status a year later as Conference champions.

Since 2002–03, the league has been granted a second promotion place, with a play-off deciding who joins the champions in the EFL. Previously, no promotion from the Conference would occur if the winners did not have adequate stadium facilities. As of the start of the 2002–03 season, if a club achieves the automatic promotion or the play-off places but does not have an adequate stadium, their place will be re-allocated to the next highest placed club that has the required facilities.

In 2004–05, the Conference increased its size by adding two lower divisions, the Conference North and Conference South respectively, with the original division being renamed Conference National. For the 2006–07 season, the Conference National expanded from 22 to 24 teams by promoting four teams while relegating two teams and introduced a "four up and four down" system between itself and the Conference North and Conference South.

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