Northern Premier League
|Number of teams||68 in total
24 (Premier Division)
22 (Division One North)
22 (Division One South)
|Level on pyramid||7 and 8|
|Promotion to||Conference North|
|Relegation to||Northern Football League
Northern Counties East League
North West Counties Football League
Midland Football League
|Domestic cup(s)||FA Cup
Peter Swales Shield
|Current champions||F.C. United of Manchester (Premier Division)
Salford City (Division One North)
Mickleover Sports (Division One South)
Warrington Town (Challenge Cup)
Skelmersdale United (Peter Swales Shield)
The Northern Premier League is one of the regional men's football leagues in England which sits directly below the Football Conference featuring semi-professional and amateur clubs. Geographically, the league covers all of Northern England, and the northern areas of the Midlands. Originally just one division, a second division was added in 1987: Division One. This new division was split twenty years later (2007) into Division One North and Division One South.
Together with the Southern League and the Isthmian League it forms level 7–8 of the English football league system. It has various regional feeder leagues at level 9 and, due to restructuring, from 2005 onwards its champions/playoff winners have been promoted to the Conference North division rather than the Conference National as was previously the case. It is, however, also possible for these teams to be promoted to the Conference South.
Due to title sponsorship deals, the league has been billed under various names, including a sixteen-year spell as the Unibond League, the longest such deal in world football. When this deal ended in 2010, a new deal was announced which will see the competition billed as the Evo-Stik League until at least the 2015–16 season.
The Northern Premier League (NPL) was founded in 1968, as the northern equivalent of the Southern League, 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. At that time they were the highest level non-League division below The Football League, the same level as the other league in Northern England, the Northern League.
Over the next two decades, the NPL successfully displaced its older rival to become the pre-eminent regional competition in Northern England, with the Northern League eventually forced to accept status as feeder league to the NPL. In 1979, upon the creation of the Alliance Premier League (which later became the Conference), the NPL became a feeder league and fell down one level in the English football league system, and with the Conference's addition of regional divisions in 2004 the NPL was demoted by a further tier and there are now two levels between it and the Football League.
From 1992–93 to 1994–95 the League's Division One included two non-English clubs, Caernarfon Town from Wales and Gretna from Scotland, who have since joined their countries' league systems. Colwyn Bay, Bangor City, Newtown, and Rhyl have also played in the league.
The Premier Division has 22 clubs, with the champions promoted to the Football Conference along with the winners of a playoff between the second to fifth place clubs. Theoretically, clubs from the NPL could be promoted into either of the Conference's two regional divisions, however, the geographical footprint of the NPL has never overlapped with that of the Conference South, therefore (as of 2014) all promoted NPL clubs have been placed in the Conference North. The bottom four teams are usually relegated to Division One North or South, however NPL Premier Division clubs in the most southerly locales could be placed in the Southern League Division One Central in the event of relegation.
From the 2009–10 season, Division One North and South have 22 clubs each. In each division, the champions are promoted to the Premier Division, along with the winners of a playoff between the second to fifth place clubs. The bottom two clubs in each division 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 covering the NPL area are promoted each season. These are the Northern League, the Northern Counties East League, and the North West Counties League. Clubs in the northern extremities of the Midland Alliance and the United Counties League may also be promoted to the Northern Premier League.
Should there be an unusually large or small number of clubs relegated to and/or promoted to the level of the NPL from Northern England, the National League System (NLS) Committee can order one or more of the NPL's southernmost clubs to transfer to the Southern League (or vice versa) to maintain numerical balance between the leagues.
Division One North and South teams receive a bye to the Preliminary Round of FA Cup Qualification. Premier Division teams receive a bye to the First Round of Qualification.
The league has two knockout competitions. All clubs in the three leagues play in the Challenge Cup with the clubs in the Premier Division given byes to the third round, where they join eleven teams from the lower divisions. In previous seasons, the other two cup competitions, the Chairman's Cup and the President's Cup have been 'plate' competitions, for clubs losing in the early rounds of the Challenge Cup. From the 2007–08 season onwards, however, the President’s Cup is competed for by all the First Division clubs, while the Chairman’s Cup is contested between the two First Division Champion clubs. The winners of the Chairman's Cup then go on to play the Premier Division champions in the Peter Swales Shield.
2015–16 member clubs
For the 1987–88 season, Division One was added.
1 Cammell Laird were promoted instead as Retford's ground did not meet the requirements of the higher division.
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