About Non-League Football

In England, and all over the world, really, football is like a second religion to many. But especially in England where this hugely popular sport originated. This explains why there are so many football clubs in the country, all organized in a rather entrenched system of leagues.

However, with so many leagues and divisions, someone outside of the system could easily get confused about the football pyramid in England. And while information about the superior tiers of English football is abundant on the Internet, not the same can be said about non-league football.

That’s why we decided to shed some light on this topic and explain a little how things work at the lower levels of football in England. The term non-league football is primarily used to describe football played outside of the Premier League and the English Football League.

Before 1992, when the best-performing football clubs in England were all part of the EFL, all the other clubs not included in the EFL were therefore non-League clubs.

What is confusing about the term is that the vast majority of clubs referred to as ‘non-league’ English football clubs actually play in a type of league, though they are not part of the 92 professional clubs playing in the Premier League and EFL. Nowadays, a non-league team is any club playing in the National League and below.  

The National League is the top tier of non-league football in England and it contains a national division of 24 clubs. It is also called Conference National and is the division directly below League Two. At the end of each season, two teams from this tier are promoted to the Football League, while four underperforming clubs are relegated to the regional divisions, called Conference North and Conference South (or National League North and National League South). Each of these regional divisions includes 22 teams and make up Level 6 of the football pyramid.

At this level, some of the clubs are full-time professional and some are semi-professional, but going down the tiers, the majority of the clubs are amateur.

Continuing down the line, things get very region specific. Next we have Level 7 of the system, which includes three regional leagues Northern Premier League, Southern League and Isthmian League. From Tier 8 to 11, there are even more clubs and divisions as counties and regions start to split up more.

That said, the depth of the English football system is truly unique and all tiers are equally important to English fans.