National League (division)

The National League, known as the Vanarama National League for sponsorship reasons[1] and non-league, 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 professional, the National League has a mixture of professional 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]

National League
Founded1979 (as Alliance Premier League)
CountryEngland (22 teams)
Other club(s) fromWales (1 team)
Number of teams23
Level on pyramid5
Step 1 (National League System)
Promotion toEFL League Two
Relegation toNational League North
National League South
Domestic cup(s)FA Cup
FA Trophy
International cup(s)Scottish Challenge Cup (invitational)
Europa League (via FA Cup)
Current championsBarrow
(2019–20)
Most championshipsBarnet and Macclesfield Town (3 titles)
TV partnersBT Sport (live)
FreeSports (highlights)
WebsiteNational League
Current: 2020–21 National League

HistoryEdit

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 Football League began accepting direct promotion and relegation between the Conference and the bottom division of the 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, and 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 League Two. 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.

SponsorshipEdit

The league's first sponsor was Gola, which sponsored it during the 1984–85 and 1985–86 seasons. When Gola's sponsorship ceased, carmaker Vauxhall Motors—then the British subsidiary of General Motors—took over and sponsored the league until the end of the 1997–98 season.

The 1998–99 Conference campaign began without sponsors for the Conference, but just before the end of the season a sponsorship was agreed with Nationwide Building Society. This lasted until the end of the 2006–07 season, after which Blue Square took over. This would also prompt the leagues being renamed, with the Conference National becoming the Blue Square Premier, the Conference North becoming Blue Square North and the Conference South becoming Blue Square South.[3] In April 2010, Blue Square announced a further three-year sponsorship deal. From the start of the 2010–11 season the divisions were renamed, with the addition of the word "Bet" after "Blue Square".

In July 2013 the Conference agreed a sponsorship deal with online payment firm Skrill.[4] This lasted for only one year and the following July the Conference announced a brand-new three-year deal with Vanarama,[5] later extended by two more years.

In 2015, the Football Conference was renamed the National League. The top division was also officially renamed the National League and the lower divisions renamed as National League North and National League South. In January 2019 the League signed a three-year deal with Motorama,[1] Vanarama's sister company. Because of the new sponsorship, the three divisions will be known as the Motorama National League, Motorama National League North and Motorama National League South.

Media coverageEdit

In August 2006 Setanta Sports signed a five-year deal with the Conference. Under the deal, Setanta Sports started showing live matches in the 2007–08 season, with 79 live matches each season. Included in the deal were the annual play-off matches as well as the Conference League Cup, a cup competition for the three Football Conference divisions.[6] Setanta showed two live matches a week, with one on Thursday evening and one at the weekend.[7] In Australia the Conference National was broadcast by Setanta Sports Australia. Setanta Sports suffered financial problems and ceased broadcasting in the United Kingdom on 23 June 2009.[8] Sky Sports broadcast the Conference play-off final 2010 at Wembley Stadium.

On 19 August 2010, Premier Sports announced that it bought the live and exclusive UK television rights to 30 matches per season from the Conference Premier for a total of three seasons.[9] The 30 matches selected for broadcast included all five Conference Premier play-offs.[10] The deal with the Football Conference was a revenue sharing arrangement whereby clubs received 50% of revenue from subscriptions, on top of the normal rights fee paid by the broadcaster, once the costs of production were met. The Conference also earned 50% from all internet revenue associated with the deal and allow them to retain advertising rights allied to those adverts shown with their matches. During the 2010–11 season, Premier Sports failed to attract enough viewers to its Conference football broadcasts to share any revenue with the clubs beyond the £5,000 broadcast fee paid to home clubs and £1,000 to away clubs.

In July 2013, BT Sport announced a two-year deal to broadcast 30 live games per season including all five play-off matches.[11] In 2015 the National League announced that it renewed a three-year deal with BT Sport.[2]

The following 23 clubs compete in the National League during the 2020–21 season.

Locations of the 2020-21 National League clubs (Greater London clubs)
Club Finishing position last season Location Stadium Capacity
Aldershot Town 18th Aldershot Recreation Ground 7,200
Altrincham 5th in National League North (promoted via play-offs) Altrincham Moss Lane 7,700
Barnet 7th London (Edgware) The Hive Stadium 6,418
Boreham Wood 5th Borehamwood Meadow Park 4,502
Bromley 13th London (Bromley) Hayes Lane 5,300
Chesterfield 20th Chesterfield Proact Stadium 10,504
Dagenham & Redbridge 17th London (Dagenham) Victoria Road 6,078
Dover Athletic 11th Dover Crabble Athletic Ground 5,745
Eastleigh 16th Eastleigh Ten Acres 5,250
FC Halifax Town 6th Halifax The Shay 14,061
Hartlepool United 12th Hartlepool Victoria Park 7,856
King's Lynn Town 1st in National League North (promoted) King's Lynn The Walks 5,733
Maidenhead United 21st Maidenhead York Road 4,000
Notts County 3rd Nottingham Meadow Lane 19,588
Solihull Moors 9th Solihull Damson Park 3,050
Stockport County 8th Stockport Edgeley Park 10,852
Sutton United 15th London (Sutton) Gander Green Lane 5,013
Torquay United 14th Torquay Plainmoor 6,500
Wealdstone 1st in National League South (promoted) London (Ruislip) Grosvenor Vale 3,607
Weymouth 3rd in National League South

(promoted via play-offs)

Weymouth Bob Lucas Stadium 6,600
Woking 10th Woking Kingfield Stadium 6,036
Wrexham 19th Wrexham Racecourse Ground 10,771
Yeovil Town 4th Yeovil Huish Park 9,566

Past winnersEdit

Numbers in parentheses indicate wins up to that date.

Season Winner Playoff Winner
1979–80 Altrincham1
1980–81 Altrincham1 (2)
1981–82 Runcorn1
1982–83 Enfield1
1983–84 Maidstone United1
1984–85 Wealdstone1
1985–86 Enfield1 (2)
1986–87 Scarborough
1987–88 Lincoln City
1988–89 Maidstone United (2)
1989–90 Darlington
1990–91 Barnet
1991–92 Colchester United
1992–93 Wycombe Wanderers
1993–94 Kidderminster Harriers2
1994–95 Macclesfield Town2
1995–96 Stevenage Borough2
1996–97 Macclesfield Town (2)
1997–98 Halifax Town
1998–99 Cheltenham Town
1999–2000 Kidderminster Harriers (2)
2000–01 Rushden & Diamonds
2001–02 Boston United3
2002–03 Yeovil Town Doncaster Rovers
2003–04 Chester City Shrewsbury Town
2004–05 Barnet (2) Carlisle United
2005–06 Accrington Stanley Hereford United
2006–07 Dagenham & Redbridge Morecambe
2007–08 Aldershot Town Exeter City
2008–09 Burton Albion Torquay United
2009–10 Stevenage Borough (2) Oxford United
2010–11 Crawley Town AFC Wimbledon
2011–12 Fleetwood Town York City
2012–13 Mansfield Town Newport County
2013–14 Luton Town Cambridge United
2014–15 Barnet (3) Bristol Rovers
2015–16 Cheltenham Town (2) Grimsby Town
2016–17 Lincoln City (2) Forest Green Rovers
2017–18 Macclesfield Town (3) Tranmere Rovers
2018–19 Leyton Orient Salford City
2019–204 Barrow Harrogate Town
  • ^1 No promotion to the Football League until 1987.
  • ^2 No promotion due to the club's stadium not being adequate for the Football League.
  • ^3 Boston United were allowed to retain their championship title and subsequent promotion to the Football League despite having been found guilty of serious financial misconduct during their title winning season. Following their later relegation at the end of the 2006–07 season, due to ongoing financial concerns and irregularities at the club, Boston were relegated a further division and placed in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League.
  • ^4 Clubs voted to end the 2019–20 National League season using points per game after the season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Play-off resultsEdit

Season First Semi-final Second Semi-final Final Final Venue
2019–20 Harrogate Town 1-0 Boreham Wood Notts County 2-0 Barnet Harrogate Town 3-1 Notts County

(Match Report)

Wembley Stadium, London
2018–19 Solihull Moors 0–1 AFC Fylde Eastleigh 1–1 Salford City
Salford City won 4–3 on penalties
AFC Fylde 0–3 Salford City

(Match Report)

2017–18 Tranmere Rovers 4–2 (a.e.t) Ebbsfleet United Sutton United 2–3 Boreham Wood Tranmere Rovers 2–1 Boreham Wood

(Match Report)

2016–17 Aldershot Town 0–3 Tranmere Rovers

Tranmere Rovers 2–2 Aldershot Town

Tranmere Rovers won 5–2 on aggregate

Dagenham & Redbridge 1–1 Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers 2–0 Dagenham & Redbridge

Forest Green Rovers won 3–1 on aggregate

Tranmere Rovers 1–3 Forest Green Rovers

(Match Report)

2015–16 Dover Athletic 0–1 Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers 1–1 Dover Athletic

Forest Green Rovers won 2–1 on aggregate

Grimsby Town 0–1 Braintree Town

Braintree Town 0–2 Grimsby Town

Grimsby Town won 2–1 on aggregate

Forest Green Rovers 1–3 Grimsby Town

(Match Report)

2014–15 Forest Green Rovers 0–1 Bristol Rovers

Bristol Rovers 2–0 Forest Green Rovers

Bristol Rovers won 3–0 on aggregate

Eastleigh 1–2 Grimsby Town

Grimsby Town 3–0 Eastleigh

Grimsby Town won 5–1 on aggregate

Bristol Rovers 1–1 Grimsby Town
Bristol Rovers won 5–3 on penalties
(Match Report)
2013–14 FC Halifax Town 1–0 Cambridge United

Cambridge United 2–0 FC Halifax Town

Cambridge United won 2–1 on aggregate

Grimsby Town 1–1 Gateshead

Gateshead 3–1 Grimsby Town

Gateshead won 4–2 on aggregate

Cambridge United 2–1 Gateshead

(Match Report)

2012–13 Wrexham 2–1 Kidderminster Harriers

Kidderminster Harriers 1–3 Wrexham

Wrexham won 5–2 on aggregate

Grimsby Town 0–1 Newport County

Newport County 1–0 Grimsby Town

Newport County won 2–0 on aggregate

Wrexham 0–2 Newport County

(Match Report)

2011–12 Luton Town 2–0 Wrexham

Wrexham 2–1 Luton Town

Luton Town won 3–2 on aggregate

York City 1–1 Mansfield Town

Mansfield Town 0–1 York City

York City won 2–1 on aggregate

Luton Town 1–2 York City

(Match Report)

2010–11 Fleetwood Town 0–2 AFC Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon 6–1 Fleetwood Town

AFC Wimbledon won 8–1 on aggregate

Wrexham 0–3 Luton Town

Luton Town 2–1 Wrexham

Luton Town won 5–1 on aggregate

AFC Wimbledon 0–0 Luton Town
AFC Wimbledon won 4–3 on penalties
(Match Report)
City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester
2009–10 Luton Town 0–1 York City

York City 1–0 Luton Town

York City won 2–0 on aggregate

Oxford United 2–0 Rushden & Diamonds

Rushden & Diamonds 1–1 Oxford United

Oxford United won 3–1 on aggregate

Oxford United 3–1 York City

(Match Report)

Wembley Stadium, London
2008–09 Stevenage Borough 3–1 Cambridge United

Cambridge United 3–0 Stevenage Borough

Cambridge United won 4–3 on aggregate

Torquay United 2–0 Histon

Histon 1–0 Torquay United

Torquay United won 2–1 on aggregate

Cambridge United 0–2 Torquay United

(Match Report)

2007–08 Burton Albion 2–2 Cambridge United

Cambridge United 2–1 Burton Albion

Cambridge United won 4–3 on aggregate

Exeter City 1–2 Torquay United

Torquay United 1–4 Exeter City

Exeter City won 5–3 on aggregate

Cambridge United 0–1 Exeter City

(Match Report)

2006–07 Exeter City 0–1 Oxford United

Oxford United 1–2 Exeter City
2–2 draw on aggregate

Exeter won 4–3 on penalties

York City 0–0 Morecambe

Morecambe 2–1 York City

Morecambe won 2–1 on aggregate

Morecambe 2–1 Exeter City

(Match Report)

2005–06 Halifax Town 3–2 Grays Athletic

Grays Athletic 2–2 Halifax Town

Halifax Town won 5–4 on aggregate

Morecambe 1–1 Hereford United

Hereford United 3–2 Morecambe

Hereford United won 4–3 on aggregate

Hereford United 3–2 Halifax Town
after extra time
(Match Report)
Walkers Stadium, Leicester
2004–05 Aldershot Town 1–0 Carlisle United

Carlisle United 2–1 Aldershot Town
2–2 draw on aggregate

Carlisle won 5–4 on penalties

Stevenage Borough 1–1 Hereford United

Hereford United 0–1 Stevenage Borough

Stevenage Borough won 2–1 on aggregate

Carlisle United 1–0 Stevenage Borough

(Match Report)

Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
2003–04 Aldershot Town 1–1 Hereford United

Hereford United 0–0 Aldershot Town
1–1 draw on aggregate

Aldershot won 4–2 on penalties

Barnet 2–1 Shrewsbury Town

Shrewsbury Town 1–0 Barnet
2–2 draw on aggregate

Shrewsbury won 5–3 on penalties

Aldershot Town 1–1 Shrewsbury Town
Shrewsbury won 3–0 on penalties
(Match Report)
2002–03 Dagenham & Redbridge 2–1 Morecambe

Morecambe 2–1 Dagenham & Redbridge
2–2 draw on aggregate

Dagenham won 3–2 on penalties

Doncaster Rovers 1–1 Chester City

Chester City 1–1 Doncaster Rovers
2–2 draw on aggregate

Doncaster won 4–3 on penalties

Doncaster Rovers 3–2 Dagenham & Redbridge
Doncaster won with a golden goal
(Match Report)

RecordsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "The National League is to be rebranded from next season". Chester Live. 29 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Football Conference to be renamed as National League", BBC Sport, 6 April 2015
  3. ^ "Conference announces new sponsors". BBC News. 11 April 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  4. ^ Skrill is the new title sponsor for the Football Conference Leagues
  5. ^ "Vanarama announced as new Football Conference sponsor". Non-League Bets. 30 July 2014.
  6. ^ Banham, Mark (29 August 2006). "Setanta signs five-year deal for Conference games". Benchmark Capital. Archived from the original on 21 September 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  7. ^ "Conference Signs TV Deal". Benchmark Capital. 29 August 2006. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  8. ^ Setanta goes off air in Great Britain Digital Spy, 23 June 2009
  9. ^ "Premier Sports Secure Conference TV Rights". Vital Football. 19 August 2010.
  10. ^ "Football Conference Signs Unique TV Deal". Blue Square Bet Premier. 20 August 2010. Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  11. ^ "BT Sport will show live football conference matches". BT. 3 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Bristol Rovers 1–1 Grimsby". 17 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.

External linksEdit