National League (division)

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National League
Country  England
Other club(s) from  Wales
Founded 1979
(as Alliance Premier League)
Number of teams 24
Level on pyramid 5
Step 1 (National League System)
Promotion to League Two
Relegation to National League North
National League South
Domestic cup(s) FA Cup
FA Trophy
International cup(s) Europa League
(via FA Cup)
Current champions Cheltenham Town
(2015–16)
Most championships Barnet (3 titles)
TV partners BT Sport
NLTV
Website National League
2016–17 National League

The National League, formerly the Conference National (currently named the Vanarama National League for sponsorship reasons[1]), is the top division of the National League in England. It 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 tiers of English football are full-time professional, the National League has a mixture of full-time and semi-professional clubs. The National League is the lowest nationwide division in the English football pyramid. Beginning with the 2015–16 season, the league was renamed as the National League.[2]

History[edit]

The league was formed as the Alliance Premier League in 1979, coming into force for the 1979–80 season. It was the first attempt to create a fully national league underneath the Football League since the Football Alliance was absorbed as Football League Second Division in 1892, drawing its clubs from the Northern Premier 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 GM Vauxhall Conference (which the league had been rebranded for sponsorship purposes by then) and the bottom division of the Football League which at that time was known as the Football League Fourth Division and is now Football 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 GM Vauxhall Conference champions.

Since 2002–03, the league has been granted a second promotion place, with a play-off deciding who joins the champions in the Football League. 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.

The league's first sponsors were Gola, who sponsored it during the 1984–85 and 1985–86 seasons. When Gola's sponsorship ceased, carmaker Vauxhall Motors — the British subsidiary of American combine 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 their renaming leagues 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.[1] 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. Because of the ongoing sponsorship, the three divisions are now currently known as the Vanarama National League, Vanarama League North and Vanarama League South.

Media coverage[edit]

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.[5] Setanta showed two live matches a week, with one on Thursday evening and one at the weekend.[6] 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.[7] Sky Sports broadcast the Conference Play-off final 2010 at Wembley Stadium.

On 19 August 2010, Premier Sports announced that it had bought the live and exclusive UK television rights to thirty matches per season from the Conference Premier for a total of three seasons.[8] The thirty matches selected for broadcast will include all five Conference Premier play-offs.[9] The deal with the Football Conference is a revenue sharing arrangement whereby clubs receive 50% of revenue from subscriptions, on top of the normal rights fee paid by the broadcaster, once the costs of production have been met. The Conference will also earn 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 5 playoff matches.[10] The National League announced it has a renewed three-year deal with BT Sport, and in addition, it launched its own channel called NLTV that will focus on all 68 member clubs across the three divisions.[2]

Clubs 2016–17[edit]

Club Finishing position last season
Aldershot Town 15th
Barrow 11th
Boreham Wood 19th
Braintree Town 3rd
Bromley 14th
Chester 17th
Dagenham & Redbridge 23rd (relegated from League Two)
Dover Athletic 5th
Eastleigh 7th
Forest Green Rovers 2nd
Gateshead 9th
Guiseley 20th
Lincoln City 13th
Macclesfield Town 10th
Maidstone United 3rd (promoted via Conference South Play-Offs)
North Ferriby United 2nd (promoted via Conference North Play-Offs)
Solihull Moors 1st (promoted via Conference North)
Southport 16th
Sutton United 1st (promoted via Conference South)
Torquay United 18th
Tranmere Rovers 6th
Woking 12th
Wrexham 8th
York City 24th (relegated from League Two)

Past winners[edit]

Numbers in parentheses indicate wins up to that date.

Season Winner Playoff Winner
1979–80 Altrincham1
1980–81 Altrincham1 (2)
1981–82 Runcorn1
1982–83 Enfield1
1983–84 Maidstone United1
1984–85 Wealdstone1
1985–86 Enfield1 (2)
1986–87 Scarborough
1987–88 Lincoln City
1988–89 Maidstone United (2)
1989–90 Darlington
1990–91 Barnet
1991–92 Colchester United
1992–93 Wycombe Wanderers
1993–94 Kidderminster Harriers2
1994–95 Macclesfield Town2
1995–96 Stevenage Borough2
1996–97 Macclesfield Town (2)
1997–98 Halifax Town
1998–99 Cheltenham Town
1999–00 Kidderminster Harriers (2)
2000–01 Rushden & Diamonds
2001–02 Boston United3
2002–03 Yeovil Town Doncaster Rovers
2003–04 Chester City Shrewsbury Town
2004–05 Barnet (2) Carlisle United
2005–06 Accrington Stanley Hereford United
2006–07 Dagenham & Redbridge Morecambe
2007–08 Aldershot Town Exeter City
2008–09 Burton Albion Torquay United
2009–10 Stevenage Borough (2) Oxford United
2010–11 Crawley Town AFC Wimbledon
2011–12 Fleetwood Town York City
2012–13 Mansfield Town Newport County
2013–14 Luton Town Cambridge United
2014–15 Barnet (3) Bristol Rovers
2015-16 Cheltenham Town (2) Grimsby Town F.C.
  • ^1 No promotion to the Football League until 1987.
  • ^2 No promotion to the Football League due to 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 back from the Football League 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.

Play-off results[edit]

Season First Semi-final (5th vs 2nd) Second Semi-final (4th vs 3rd) Final Final Venue
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)

Wembley Stadium, London
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)

Stadiums 2015–16[edit]

Team Stadium Capacity
Aldershot Town EBB Stadium 7,100
Altrincham Moss Lane 6,085
Barrow Furness Building Society Stadium 4,414
Boreham Wood Meadow Park 4,502
Braintree Town Cressing Road 4,145
Bromley Hayes Lane 6,000
Cheltenham Town World of Smile Stadium 7,266
Chester Deva Stadium 5,376
Dover Athletic Crabble Athletic Ground 6,500
Eastleigh Silverlake Stadium 5,192
Forest Green Rovers The New Lawn 5,147
Gateshead Gateshead International Stadium 10,000
Grimsby Town Blundell Park 9,546
Guiseley Nethermoor Park 3,000
FC Halifax Town The Shay 14,061
Kidderminster Harriers Aggborough 6,238
Lincoln City Sincil Bank 10,120
Macclesfield Town Moss Rose 6,355
Southport Haig Avenue 6,008
Torquay United Plainmoor 6,500
Tranmere Rovers Prenton Park 16,567
Welling United Park View Road 4,000
Woking Kingfield Stadium 6,036
Wrexham Racecourse Ground 10,771

Records[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Vanarama announced as new Football Conference sponsor". Non-League Bets. 30 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "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
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "Conference Signs TV Deal". Benchmark Capital. 29 August 2006. Retrieved 5 October 2007. 
  7. ^ Setanta goes off air in Great Britain Digital Spy, 23 June 2009
  8. ^ "Premier Sports Secure Conference TV Rights". Vital Football. 19 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "Football Conference Signs Unique TV Deal". Blue Square Bet Premier. 20 August 2010. 
  10. ^ "BT Sport will show live football conference matches". BT. 3 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "Bristol Rovers 1–1 Grimsby". 17 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 

External links[edit]