The English football league system is a series of interconnected leagues for men’s association football clubs in England. This league system is also recognized as the football pyramid of interconnected leagues for club football in England.
Aston Villa director William McGregor created the English Football League in 1888. The league was dominated by those clubs who had supported professionalism. The English football league system is also known as the football pyramid.
A pyramid of leagues is bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation. However, those that finish the season at the bottom of their league can find themselves sinking a level.
The top five levels of English football league contain one division each and are nationwide in scope. Further levels have progressively more parallel leagues that cover progressively smaller geographic areas.
Most of the leagues have more than one division. If we talk about the lower levels, the existence of leagues becomes intermittent. Further, there are leagues more than twenty layers below the Premier League in some of the densely populated areas.
On the other hand, some leagues are not officially part of the system. This is because these leagues don’t have formal agreements with other leagues, but are recognized at various levels by county football associations.
If clubs from these leagues feel they meet the appropriate standard of play and have suitable facilities, they apply to join a league that does form part of the system. Below the Premier League and English Football League, seven levels are known as the National League System. These come under the jurisdiction of The Football Association.
The Northern Counties East Football League was founded in 1982 by the merger of the former Yorkshire League and Midland League. It is an English football league and has two divisions at present; the Premier Division and Division One which stand at the ninth and tenth levels of the football pyramid respectively.
The league is sponsored by Baris from season 2011–12. The Premier Division of the Northern Counties East Football League is a feeder to the Northern Premier League First Division North or South, with the championship-winning team being promoted.
The bottom two clubs the Premier Division at the end of the season are relegated into Division One whereas the top two clubs of Division One are promoted to the Premier Division. During the recent seasons, teams have not always been relegated to a lower level as the league has been running short of maximum.
Since 1982, the Northern Counties East Football League has provided some notable moments. From its founding year to 2007, the league hosted the oldest footballing rivalry in the world, between the world’s two oldest clubs; Sheffield and Hallam. The ground of Hallam, Sandy gate Road, is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as ‘The Oldest Ground in the World’.
The Northern Counties East Football League has three cup competitions:
- The League Cup (contested by all the clubs in the league)
- The Wilkinson Sword Trophy (contested by the Division One clubs)
- The Presidents Cup (contested by the top eight teams in each division from the previous season)
If we talk geographically, the Northern Counties East Football League covers all of Northern England and the northern/central areas of the Midlands. The successful teams at the top of the Northern Premier Division are promoted to level 6 of the pyramid. At the bottom, teams are relegated down to level 9, where several regional feeder leagues promote clubs into the league.
From 1992–93 to 1994–95 the Division One of the league included two non-English clubs, Caernarvon from Wales and Gretna from Scotland. Later, they joined their countries’ league systems. Colwyn Bay, Bangor City, Newtown, and Rhyl have also played in the league.
In 2018, the members of Northern Premier Division voted 37–27, with one abstention and three clubs’ absence, to split Step 4 divisions from east to west starting from the 2018–19 season. The league published its successful bid in 2019 to add another division at Step 4 in 2020, further altering Division One into northwest and southeast for travel reasons.
At steps 5 and 6 in the National League system, the Northern Counties East League is a two-division league that feeds the Northern Premier League.
In 1968, the Northern Premier League was found. It was founded decades after the other two leagues at what is now the seventh tier of the English football league system, the Isthmian League and the Southern League.
League has three divisions:
- The Premier Division (stands at level 7 of the English football league system)
- Division One North West (stands at level 8)
- Division One South East (stands at level 8).
The Premier Division
It has the champions promoted to the National League along with the winners of a playoff between the second to fifth place clubs. The league has 22 clubs. These clubs could be promoted into either of the National League’s two regional divisions, however, the geographical footprint of the National Premier League has never overlapped with that of the National League South, therefore all promoted National Premier League clubs have been placed in the National League North.
Division One North West & South East
The bottom three teams are usually relegated to Division One North West or South East. However, National Premier League Division clubs in the most southerly locales could be placed in the Southern League Division One Central in the event of relegation.
From the season 2019-20, Division One North West and South East have 20 clubs each. The champions are promoted to the Premier Division in each division along with the winners of a divisional playoff. Every division’s bottom two clubs are relegated to one of the feeder leagues below provided there are enough suitable promotion candidates from those leagues.
The champions of the three feeder leagues; the Northern League, the Northern Counties East League, and the North West Counties League cover the National Premier League area and are promoted each season. Moreover, clubs in the United Counties League and Northern extremities of the Midland League may also be promoted to the Northern Premier League.