FA Women's National League

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FA Women's National League
Tottenham Hotspur LFC v Blackburn Rovers LFC, 28 May 2017 (03).jpg
First season1991–92
ConfederationUEFA (Europe)
National League North
National League South
Division One North
Division One Midlands
Division One South East
Division One South West
Premier League National Division (1991–2013)
Number of teams150
Level on pyramid3–4 (since 2014)
Promotion toFA Women's Championship (since 2015)
Relegation toRegional Leagues
Domestic cup(s)Women's FA Cup
League cup(s)FA Women's National League Cup
FA Women's National League Plate
Most championshipsArsenal (12 titles)
Current: Current season (2020–21)

The FA Women's National League is a group of six football divisions run by the English Football Association. From 1991 to 2018, it was named the Women's Premier League (WPL) and included England's top division from 1991 to 2010.

The leagues now sit at step 3 and 4 of the women's football pyramid, below the FA WSL and the Women's Championship.

The Women's Premier League National Division contained England's top women's clubs from 1991–92 until the season 2009–10. During this time, Arsenal W.F.C. won 12 WPL titles. Below the National Division was a Northern Division and Southern Division, whose teams could win promotion.

The WPL National Division became the country's level 2 division from 2010–11 to 2012–13 (with the Northern and Southern at level 3). The WPL National Division ended in 2013, and was replaced at level 2 by FA WSL 2, later renamed the Championship. The Northern Division and Southern Division teams (continuing at level 3) have since played for promotion to this division.

The feeder divisions of the Combination Women's Football Leagues (1998–2014) became officially part of the WPL system in 2014 at level 4. From these four divisions (North, Midlands, South East and South West), clubs can win promotion to the level 3 National League North or National League South.

The FA has run the Women's Premier League/National League for most of the competition's existence, but the league was organised in its first two seasons (from 1991 to 1993) by its founders, the Women's Football Association.


Before the National League, women's teams nationally had competed in the WFA Cup (Women's FA Cup) since 1970, and there were English regional leagues, but this was the first regular nationwide competition of its kind.

The Women's National League was inaugurated in the 1991–92 season by the Women's Football Association (WFA),[1] with a monetary grant from the Sports Council.[2] Eight teams played in the top flight in that year. From the League's foundation, it consisted of a national premier division and two lower divisions, the Northern and Southern Divisions, whose winners each season were promoted to the top flight.

Doncaster Belles were the champions of the first WFA Women's Premier Division in 1991–92

After the League's third season, the Football Association assumed responsibility for the competition and renamed it, beginning with the 1994–95 FA Women's Premier League (FA WPL).[3]

The FA Women's Premier League National Division remained the top tier of women's football until the end of the 2009–10 FA WPL season.

From the WPL National Division's origins in 1991–92 until its disbandment after the 2012–13 season, the division was above the Northern and Southern Divisions. Since 1991–92, the Northern and Southern Divisions have run on an equal basis (with their teams usually seeking promotion), and this continues today. The terms Women's Premiership and Ladies Premiership were generally used for the National Division only.

From 2000 until 2008, the Women's Premier League champions usually competed in the annual FA Women's Community Shield against the FA Women's Cup winners.

The WPL National Division lost several clubs prior to the 2010–11 season and the division was demoted to level 2, due to the creation of the FA WSL in 2011.[4] (Note that the WSL was a summer league for its first six years, as opposed to the WPL's winter format.) Strangely, the lower divisions were still given the name "Premier League" for eight more seasons.

After the WPL National Division seasons at level 2, from 2010–11 to 2012–13, that division was scrapped due to the FA's decision to add another WSL division, WSL 2, for its 2014 season, which included some clubs that moved from the WPL. The only divisions in 2013–14 with WPL branding were the Northern and Southern Divisions at league level 3.

For the 2014–15 season, the Women's Premier League incorporated the four existing Combination Women's Football Leagues (level 4), as the Premier League's "Division One", with four groups of Division One leagues: North, Midlands, South East and South West.[5] The FA proposed rebranding the WPL collectively as the Women's Championship League,[6] but instead the six divisions kept the name Women's Premier League until 2018.

At level 3 in the pyramid now, the winners of the Northern and Southern Divisions have played each other since 2014–15 in a one-off play-off at a neutral venue for an opportunity to be promoted into the level 2 division, the first instance of promotion from the WPL to the WSL. The first play-off was contested between Portsmouth and Sheffield F.C. at Stratford FC's ground, with the latter winning through a stoppage time goal.

The level 3 and 4 divisions were renamed the Women's National League from 2018–19.

National Division champions[edit]

Below is a list of women's Premier League National Division champions from 1991–92 until 2012–13.

The Premier League was run by the Women's Football Association for its first two seasons before being taken over by the FA from the 1993–94 season. (Similarly, the Women's FA Cup, which dates from 1970, was run by the Women's Football Association from 1970–71 to 1991–92 inclusive, and was taken over by the FA from the 1993–94 season.)

Level 1 national champions

Season Premier League winners
and English champions
1991–92 Doncaster Belles
1992–93 Arsenal
1993–94 Doncaster Belles
1994–95 Arsenal
1995–96 Croydon WFC
1996–97 Arsenal
1997–98 Everton
1998–99 Croydon WFC
1999–00 Croydon WFC
2000–01 Arsenal
2001–02 Arsenal
2002–03 Fulham
2003–04 Arsenal
2004–05 Arsenal
2005–06 Arsenal
2006–07 Arsenal
2007–08 Arsenal
2008–09 Arsenal
2009–10 Arsenal

Level 2 national champions:

Season Premier League winners
2010–11 Sunderland
2011–12 Sunderland
2012–13 Sunderland

From 2014, the level 2 national division was FA WSL 2.

Regional Premier Division champions[edit]

Level 2 champions:

Season Northern Division Southern Division
1991–92 Bronte Arsenal
1992–93 Aston Villa District Line
1993–94 Wolverhampton Wanderers Bromley Borough
1994–95 Aston Villa Maidstone Tigresses
1995–96 Tranmere Rovers Southampton Saints
1996–97 Bradford City Berkhamsted
1997–98 Ilkeston Town Southampton Saints
1998–99 Aston Villa Reading Royals
1999–2000 Sunderland Barry Town
2000–01 Leeds United Brighton & Hove Albion
2001–02 Birmingham City Fulham
2002–03 Aston Villa Bristol Rovers
2003–04 Liverpool Bristol City
2004–05 Sunderland Chelsea
2005–06 Blackburn Rovers Cardiff City
2006–07 Liverpool Watford
2007–08 Nottingham Forest Fulham
2008–09 Sunderland Millwall
2009–10 Liverpool Barnet
Tottenham won the Southern Division and the 2016–17 promotion playoff

Level 3 champions:

Season Northern Division Southern Division
2010–11[a] Aston Villa Charlton Athletic
2011–12 Manchester City Portsmouth
2012–13[b] Sheffield Reading
2013–14 Sheffield Coventry City
2014–15[c] Sheffield Portsmouth
2015–16 Sporting Club Albion Brighton & Hove Albion
2016–17 Blackburn Rovers Tottenham Hotspur
2017–18 Blackburn Rovers Charlton Athletic
2018–19 Blackburn Rovers Coventry United[d]
2019–20 Not awarded[e]
  1. ^ 2010–11 runners-up Cardiff City and Coventry City also promoted to National Division, due to formation of WSL
  2. ^ In 2013 the National Division ended; no automatic promotions but Reading, Millwall and Yeovil were elected to WSL 2
  3. ^ From 2014–15 onwards, the club marked in bold was promoted to WSL 2/Women's Championship via a play-off between the Northern and Southern Division champions, and was overall champion of the WPL/National League.
  4. ^ Blackburn won the Championship play-off but both teams were promoted as part of an increase in the number of WSL teams.
  5. ^ 2019–20 season was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic; no titles awarded; no promotion or relegation at level 3.

Regional Division One Champions[edit]

Following the incorporation of the Combination Women's Football Leagues into the Women's Premier League in 2014, the Women's Premier League consisted of an additional four regional leagues below the Northern and Southern Divisions.

Season Division One North Division One Midlands Division One South East Division One South West
2014–15 Guiseley Vixens Loughborough Foxes C & K Basildon Forest Green Rovers
2015–16 Middlesbrough Leicester City Crystal Palace Swindon Town
2016–17 Guiseley Vixens Wolverhampton Wanderers Gillingham Chichester City
2017–18 Hull City Loughborough Foxes Milton Keynes Dons Plymouth Argyle
2018–19 Burnley West Bromwich Albion Crawley Wasps Keynsham Town
2019–20 Not awarded[a]
  1. ^ Season was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. No titles were awarded and there was no promotion or relegation.


Currently there are two tiers and a total of six divisions that make up the National League: the two third-tier divisions, the Northern and Southern Premier divisions, as well as four regional fourth-tier divisions: Division One North, Division One Midlands, Division One South East and Division One South West.[7]

Current teams[edit]

In the 2020–21 season, 24 teams compete in the Premier Division (12 teams per division) and 47 teams compete in Division One (12 teams per division except for Division One South East which has 11 following the disbanding of Southampton Saints the previous season).

Premier Division[edit]

Division One[edit]


Seventy-two clubs throughout England and Wales compete in the Women's Premier League, with six divisions of twelve teams, though this number has varied historically due to the changing structure of women's football. Following the formation of the FA Women's Super League, the number of clubs competing in the national division decreased from 12 to 8. Likewise the number of teams in both the Northern and Southern Divisions decreased from 12 to 10, resulting in the total number of team's in the Women's Premier League decreasing from 36 to 28.

Following the expansion of the WSL with the addition of a second division, the National League was abolished. As a result, both the Southern and Northern Divisions increased to 11 teams each. Several clubs which had previously been competing in the National Division were moved into the Southern Division including Charlton Athletic, Cardiff City, Portsmouth and Coventry United (formerly Coventry City).

For the 2014/15 season, the Combination Leagues were incorporated into the newly rebranded FA Women's Premier League, as a result, the WPL now consisted of 72 teams in 6 divisions.

Cup competitions[edit]

The main cup competition of the National League is the FA Women's National League Cup, a knock-out competition involving all of the teams within the six divisions that make up the National. Due to the changing structure of women's football, this competition has historically varied from a straight knock-out competition to a competition with a preliminary group stage before reaching the knock-out stage.

During the 2014–15 season, the FA Women's National League Plate was introduced. Under the current format, the teams that are eliminated from the opening round of the League Cup are entered into the Plate.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garin, Erik; Di Maggio, Roberto. "England - List of Women Champions". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  2. ^ Williams, Jean (2003). A game for rough girls?: a history of women's football in Britain. Routledge. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-415-26338-2. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  3. ^ Davies, Pete (30 August 1995). "Life's a pitch for women footie players". The Independent. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  4. ^ "Women's Super League".
  5. ^ "An introduction to the FA Women's Premier League". The FA. 13 August 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  6. ^ "From the 2014/15 season The FAWPL and Combination Leagues will merge to form the Women's Championship League". The FA. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  7. ^ "FA Women's Championship: New name chosen for England's second tier". 26 February 2018.

External links[edit]