England Conference National
The National League is an English football league consisting of three divisions, the National League, the National League North and the National League South. It was called Alliance Premier League from 1979 to 1986. Between 1986 and 2015, the league was known as the Football Conference.
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Most National League clubs are fully professional, while most National League North and South National League teams are semi-professional. The professional clubs are sometimes clubs that have played in the past in the England Football League (EFL), in contrast to those who have always been no league. The National League is the lowest of the five national football divisions in England, under the Premier League and the three divisions of the EFL, and is the top tier of the National League system of non-league football. The National League North and the National League South form the sixth league of English football. The National League consisted of only one division until 2004, but was expanded as part of a major restructuring of the National League system, which came into force in the 2004/05 season.
Some Nordic Premier teams who may have participated in the new contest have not. FC Goole Town, Lancaster City FC and Mossley A.F.C. not all of them applied to join the alliance. Matlock Town and Runcorn F.C. were not admitted because their reasons did not meet the criteria required for the new league. Southport F.C., who was voted out of the Football League in 1978, was accepted as a member of the new league, but eventually decided not to join the league as he had concerns about travel expenses.
Barrow and Northwich were previously members of the EFL. Barrow failed in 1972 for re-election, while Northwich 1895 retired from the league. Barnet, Boston, Maidstone, Scarborough and Yeovil have also tasted EFL football since the founding of the National League, but are now back in the National League or their feeder leagues (Scarborough and Maidstone now in new incarnations).
Of the 20 founding members, the last left the fifth level in Northwich. They were relegated in 2005, one year after the death of Telford. Barnet is the only founding member that has been consistently in the top 5 levels since 1979.
Bangor City has since moved to the Welsh football league, while AP Leamington, Maidstone, Nuneaton, Scarborough and Telford later collapsed and were reconstructed in the lower English leagues. Gravesend & Northfleet changed their name to Ebbsfleet United in 2007.
The National League had a single division in the first 25 years of its existence, but since the 2004/05 season, it consists of three divisions. The original division was renamed Conference National (currently National League) and two new regional divisions, Conference North and Conference South (currently National League North and South), were introduced. The new clubs for this larger competition have been selected from the Northern Premier League, the Southern League and the Isthmian League in accordance with guidelines developed by the NLS Committee.
Two teams have won the National League three times: Barnet (1991, 2005, 2015) and Macclesfield Town (1995, 1997, 2018). Before Barnets and Macclesfield's third title win, five other clubs were champions twice: Altrincham (1980, 1981), Enfield (1983, 1986), Kidderminster Harriers (1994, 2000), Maidstone United (1984, 1989) and Stevenage Borough (1996, 2010) , Kidderminster also finished second in 1997 and 2013. Lincoln City was the seventh club to win the National League twice (1988, 2017), but after Barnet's third title. Only Barnet was promoted to the EFL on all three occasions. Maidstone's first title came before the era of automatic promotion, while Kidderminster Harriers, Macclesfield Town and Stevenage Borough refused to be promoted because their equipment did not meet the required standard at the time of their first victory. All three, however, were promoted when they took their second title. Altrincham is the only team in history to retain the title as there was no automatic promotion to the EFL at that time.
So far, no former National League club has reached the Premier League, although six such clubs competed in the Premier League's First Division Football League Premier Division: Carlisle United, Leyton Orient, Oxford United, Luton Town and Grimsby Town and Notts County. Five of them have since returned to the league, Luton and Orient winning the title and the other three having won the playoff final. In addition, Luton and Oxford have been the only clubs in all the top five leagues in English football league games contested. Bradford Park Avenue also played in the First Division in its previous incarnation, but its current incarnation has only reached as high as the North Division.
The highest league level reached by a National League-promoted club is the second-tier EFL Championship, which will be won by four clubs, Colchester United, Doncaster Rovers, Yeovil Town, Luton Town and Burton Albion (as of April 2019) has been.
Promotion and Relegation
Prior to 1987, the National League clubs had to be selected by the members of the League to be admitted to the EFL. As a result, there was no guarantee that winning the National League would lead to promotion, and none of the top eight league champions were promoted. This changed in 1987, when an automatic rise and fall between the Football League Fourth Division and the National League was agreed. The first clubs affected by the new system were Lincoln City, who was relegated and replaced by Scarborough despite losing 4-0 to Nuneaton on Matchday 1.
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