The British League Division Three had been created in 1994 as a replacement for the second-half junior leagues that were scrapped when British League matches were extended to eighteen heats. The league was renamed the British Academy League in 1995, but many of the teams that took part experienced severe financial problems. In order to reduce costs, the league was re-launched as the Conference league in 1996 and was an entirely amateur competition. The revamped competition proved to be successful, with several new teams joining and some tracks attracting crowds on par with the Premier League.
The league expanded to thirteen teams in 1997 and was renamed again to the British Amateur League. However, the 1997 season exposed a number of problems; some teams wished to include more established riders but others felt the focus should be on youth development. It was therefore decided by the BSPA that Elite League and Premier League teams could operate second teams in a separate youth competition known as the British Development League. The remaining teams formed a third division that had less restrictions on the use of riders and reverted the competition name to the Conference League.