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
League cup(s)Conference League Cup
(1979–2001, 2004–05, 2007–09)
International cup(s)Scottish Challenge Cup (invitational)
Europa League (via FA Cup)
Current championsSutton United
(2020–21)
Most championshipsBarnet and Macclesfield Town (3 titles)
TV partnersBT Sport (live)
FreeSports (highlights)
WebsiteNational League
Current: 2021–22 National League

History

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 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.

Sponsorship

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 coverage

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 2021–22 season.

Aldershot Town
Altrincham
Boreham Wood
Chesterfield
Dover Athletic
Eastleigh
FC Halifax Town
Grimsby Town
King's Lynn Town
Maidenhead United
Notts County
Solihull Moors
Southend United
Torquay United
Weymouth
Woking
Wrexham
Yeovil Town
London teams
Barnet
Bromley
Dagenham & Redbridge
Wealdstone
Locations of the 2020–21 National League teams
Barnet
Bromley
Dagenham & Redbridge
Wealdstone
Locations of the 2021–22 National League clubs (Greater London clubs)
Club Finishing position last season Location Stadium Capacity
Aldershot Town15th AldershotRecreation Ground7,200
Altrincham17th AltrinchamMoss Lane7,700
Barnet22nd London (Edgware)The Hive Stadium6,418
Boreham Wood14th BorehamwoodMeadow Park4,502
Bromley7th London (Bromley)Hayes Lane5,300
Chesterfield6th ChesterfieldProact Stadium10,504
Dagenham & Redbridge12th London (Dagenham)Victoria Road6,078
Dover AthleticDNP (results expunged) DoverCrabble Athletic Ground5,745
Eastleigh9th EastleighTen Acres5,250
FC Halifax Town10th HalifaxThe Shay14,061
Grimsby Town24th in EFL League Two (relegated) CleethorpesBlundell Park9,052
King's Lynn Town21st King's LynnThe Walks5,733
Maidenhead United13th MaidenheadYork Road4,000
Notts County5th NottinghamMeadow Lane19,588
Solihull Moors11th SolihullDamson Park3,050
Southend United23rd in EFL League Two (relegated) Southend-on-SeaRoots Hall12,392
Stockport County3rd StockportEdgeley Park10,852
Torquay United2nd TorquayPlainmoor6,500
Wealdstone19th London (Ruislip)Grosvenor Vale3,607
Weymouth18th WeymouthBob Lucas Stadium6,600
Woking20th WokingKingfield Stadium6,036
Wrexham8th WrexhamRacecourse Ground10,771
Yeovil Town16th YeovilHuish Park9,566

Past winners

Numbers in parentheses indicate wins up to that date.

Season Winner Playoff Winner
1979–80Altrincham1
1980–81Altrincham1 (2)
1981–82Runcorn1
1982–83Enfield1
1983–84Maidstone United1
1984–85Wealdstone1
1985–86Enfield1 (2)
1986–87Scarborough
1987–88Lincoln City
1988–89Maidstone United (2)
1989–90Darlington
1990–91Barnet
1991–92Colchester United
1992–93Wycombe Wanderers
1993–94Kidderminster Harriers2
1994–95Macclesfield Town2
1995–96Stevenage Borough2
1996–97Macclesfield Town (2)
1997–98Halifax Town
1998–99Cheltenham Town
1999–2000Kidderminster Harriers (2)
2000–01Rushden & Diamonds
2001–02Boston United3
2002–03Yeovil TownDoncaster Rovers
2003–04Chester CityShrewsbury Town
2004–05Barnet (2)Carlisle United
2005–06Accrington StanleyHereford United
2006–07Dagenham & RedbridgeMorecambe
2007–08Aldershot TownExeter City
2008–09Burton AlbionTorquay United
2009–10Stevenage Borough (2)Oxford United
2010–11Crawley TownAFC Wimbledon
2011–12Fleetwood TownYork City
2012–13Mansfield TownNewport County
2013–14Luton TownCambridge United
2014–15Barnet (3)Bristol Rovers
2015–16Cheltenham Town (2)Grimsby Town
2016–17Lincoln City (2)Forest Green Rovers
2017–18Macclesfield Town (3)Tranmere Rovers
2018–19Leyton OrientSalford City
2019–204BarrowHarrogate Town
2020–21Sutton UnitedHartlepool United
  • ^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 results

Season Play-offs eliminator[lower-alpha 1] First Semi-final Second Semi-final Final Final Venue
2020–21 Notts County 3–2 Chesterfield

Hartlepool United 3–2 Bromley

Torquay United 4–2 (a.e.t) Notts County Stockport County 0-1 Hartlepool United Torquay United 1-1Hartlepool United

Hartlepool United won 5-4 on penalties (Match Report)

Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol
2019–20 Boreham Wood 2–1 FC Halifax Town

Yeovil Town 0–2 Barnet

Harrogate Town 1–0 Boreham Wood Notts County 2–0 Barnet Harrogate Town 3–1 Notts County

(Match Report)

Wembley Stadium, London
2018–19 AFC Fylde 3–1 Harrogate Town

Wrexham 0–1 (a.e.t) Eastleigh

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 Aldershot Town 1–1 Ebbsfleet United (Ebbsfleet United won 5–4 on penalties)

Boreham Wood 2–1 AFC Fylde

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 N/A 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)
  1. Play-Offs eliminator round was first introduced for 2017–18 season

Records

  • Most wins in a season: 31 4 – Aldershot Town (2007–08), Crawley Town, (2010–11), Fleetwood Town (2011–12)
  • Most consecutive wins: 12 – Burton Albion (2008–09), Mansfield Town (2012–13)
  • Longest unbeaten run in a season: 30 – Crawley Town (2010–11)
  • Fewest defeats in a season: 3 – Yeovil Town (2002–03), Crawley Town (2010–11)
  • Most goals scored in a season: 103 – Barnet (1990–91), Hereford United (2003–04)
  • Fewest goals conceded in a season: 24 – Kettering Town (1993–94) / Stevenage Borough (2009–10)
  • Most points in a season: 105 4 – Crawley Town (2010–11)
  • Fewest points in a season: 10 – Hyde (2013–14)
  • Largest points gap between champions and 2nd place: 19Luton Town (2013–14) (101 points) over Cambridge United (82 points)
  • Smallest points gap between champions and 2nd place: 0 – Colchester United (1991-92) (94 points) over Wycombe Wanderers by +9 goal difference
  • Highest goal difference: 67Luton Town (2013–14)
  • Biggest win: 9–0 – Runcorn beat Enfield (3 March 1990), Sutton United beat Gateshead (22 September 1990), Hereford United beat Dagenham & Redbridge (27 February 2004), Rushden & Diamonds beat Weymouth (21 February 2009), Tranmere Rovers beat Solihull Moors (8 April 2017)
  • Record attendance (play-offs): 47,029 Bristol Rovers vs Grimsby Town at Wembley Stadium (Play-off final, 17 May 2015)[12]
  • Record attendance (league game): 11,085 Bristol Rovers vs Alfreton Town at The Memorial Stadium (Bristol) Sat 25th Apr 2015
    • ^4 Stevenage Borough would have achieved 32 wins and amassed 105 points in the 2009–10 season, but 2 wins (and therefore the six points from those games) against Chester City were expunged, after Chester were expelled from the league before the season ended. This left Stevenage on 30 wins and 99 points from 44 games.

References

  1. "The National League is to be rebranded from next season". Chester Live. 29 January 2019.
  2. "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". Archived from the original on 2015-06-30. Retrieved 2013-07-30.
  5. "Vanarama announced as new Football Conference sponsor". Non-League Bets. 30 July 2014. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 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.
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