History of the English non-league football system

History Of The English Non-League Football System

History of the English non-league football system

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The National League System consists of a group of semi-professional football leagues in England, below the fully professional FA Premier League and The Football League. The NLS spans seven levels of the overall English football league system, and consists of around 80 divisions in total.

Although many of the leagues within the National League System have been around for a long time, the System itself is a fairly recent development. It was created by The Football Association in the 1990s to bring together various ad-hoc arrangements from around the country, and to give clubs a clear path of promotion and relegation from the lower levels of the pyramid right through to the professional leagues.

For more information on the current structure of the NLS, see the main article.

Before 1979

In the late Nineteenth Century a number of different football leagues were developed. Of these, only the Football League and the Football Alliance had national and professional pretensions. The Football Alliance was merged into the Football League in 1892, creating a two tier competition. The Northern League (1889) and the Southern League (1894) were the principal regional leagues, with the Southern League the stronger of the two — it provided an FA Cup winner, Tottenham Hotspur in 1901, whilst northern side Bradford Park Avenue joined it in 1907, reflecting its strength. In 1920, the top division of the Southern League was merged into the Football League to form the Third Division; the...
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