FA Women's National League

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FA Women's National League
First season1991–92
ConfederationUEFA (Europe)
Northern Premier Division
Southern Premier Division
Division One North
Division One Midlands
Division One South East
Division One South West
Premier League National Division (1991–2013)
Level on pyramid3–4 (since 2014)
Promotion toFA Women's Championship (since 2014–15)
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 (2023–24)

The FA Women's National League, formerly WFA National League and FA Women's Premier League (WPL), is a group of six football divisions which was run by the English Football Association until 2014 when it changed to become an FA branded league run by an independent elected management committee. Originally founded in 1991 by the Women's Football Association, the League included England's top division from 1991 to 2010.

The League now sits at step 3 and 4 of the women's football pyramid (below the FA Women's Super League and the Women's Championship).

The League's Premier Division/National Division contained England's top women's clubs from 1991–92 until the season 2009–10. During this time, Arsenal Ladies won 12 League 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 and ended in 2013, 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 instead.

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.


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 first champions of the Women's National League in 1991–92

From 1991–92 until 2012–13, the national premier division was above the Northern and Southern Divisions. Since 1991–92, the Northern and Southern Divisions have run on an equal basis with promotion, and this continues today. The terms Women's Premiership and Ladies Premiership were generally used for the National Division only.

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

The Women's Premier League remained level 1 and 2 of women's football until the end of the 2009–10 season. From 2000 until 2008, the WPL champions competed in the annual FA Women's Community Shield.

The National Division's most successful clubs were Arsenal (12 titles), Croydon (3 titles), Doncaster Belles (2 titles and 7 times runners-up), Everton (1 title and 5 times runners-up), and Sunderland (3 titles at league level 2).

The Women's Premier League lost several clubs prior to the 2010–11 season and the National Division was demoted to level 2, due to the creation of the FA WSL in 2011.[4] (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. The number of clubs competing in the Northern and Southern Divisions decreased from 12 to 10. The National Division decreased from 12 clubs to eight (2010–11), then increased to 10 clubs (2011–12 and 2012–13).

After the WPL National Division's three seasons at level 2, that division was scrapped after 2012–13, 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.

From 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]

2014 saw a significant change with the operation of the league moving away from The FA with an independent Management Committee elected by the clubs to run league operations and administer the competition on their behalf.

The FA proposed rebranding the WPL collectively as the Women's Championship League,[6] but instead the clubs elected to keep the name Women's Premier League until 2018, thereafter it became known as The FA Women’s National League - still an FA branded league but run independently from The FA.

The winners of the Northern and Southern Divisions have played each other since 2014–15 in a single play-off at a neutral venue, to win the Women's Premier League/National League championship and promotion into the level 2 division. This was the first instance of promotion from the WPL to the WSL when the first play-off occurred in 2015. In that year's play-off between Portsmouth and Sheffield F.C. at Stratford FC's ground, Sheffield won through a stoppage-time goal.

The six divisions were renamed the Women's National League from 2018–19.

National Division champions[edit]

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

The League was run by the Women's Football Association in 1991–92 and 1992–93; by the Women's Football Alliance and an FA committee in 1993–94; and the FA renamed the League in 1994–95. (The Women's FA Cup was run by the WFA from 1970–71 to 1992–93, and taken over by the FA in 1993–94.)

Level 1 national champions

Season English women's 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 National Division champions
2010–11 Sunderland
2011–12 Sunderland
2012–13 Sunderland
From 2014, the level 2 national division was FA WSL 2.

Northern/Southern 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:

Automatic promotion ended in 2012–13. From 2014–15 onwards, the club marked in bold won the League championship play-off between the Northern and Southern Division winners, and won promotion to WSL 2/Women's Championship.
Season Northern Division Southern Division
2010–11[a] Aston Villa Charlton Athletic
2011–12[b] Manchester City Portsmouth
2012–13[c] Sheffield Reading
2013–14 Sheffield Coventry City
2014–15 Sheffield Portsmouth
2015–16 Sporting Club Albion Brighton & Hove Albion
2016–17 Blackburn Rovers Tottenham Hotspur
2017–18[d] Blackburn Rovers Charlton Athletic
2018–19[e] Blackburn Rovers Coventry United
2019–20 Not awarded (COVID-19 pandemic)
2020–21 Not awarded (COVID-19 pandemic)
2021–22 Wolverhampton Wanderers Southampton
2022–23 Nottingham Forest Watford
  1. ^ 2011: Promotion of both champions and runners-up Coventry City and Cardiff City to National Division, after WSL's formation
  2. ^ 2012: Promotion of both champions to National Division
  3. ^ 2013: National Division ended. Reading, Millwall and Yeovil were elected to WSL 2
  4. ^ 2018: West Ham United awarded FA WSL licence; Charlton, Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Lewes promoted to Championship
  5. ^ 2019: Promotion of both champions to Championship, as FA WSL increased to 12 clubs

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/National League consisted of an additional four regional leagues below the Northern and Southern Divisions.

Level 4 champions:

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 (COVID-19 pandemic)
2020–21 Not awarded (COVID-19 pandemic)
2021–22 Liverpool Feds Boldmere St. Michaels Billericay Town Cheltenham Town
2022–23 Newcastle United Stourbridge Hashtag United Cardiff City Ladies

Format and clubs[edit]

London Bees v Sheffield F.C. Ladies in 2017
West Ham United L.F.C. in the Southern Division in 2017

Currently there are 71 clubs in the League, with two tiers and six divisions: the Northern and Southern Premier Divisions (level 3 in the football pyramid), and the regional Division One North, Division One Midlands, Division One South East and Division One South West (all level 4).[7]

These numbers have varied historically due to the changing structure of women's football.

Current teams[edit]

In the 2022–23 season, 27 teams compete in the Northern and Southern Premier Divisions (14 teams in the National Division South and 13 in the National Division North) and 47 teams compete in Division One (12 teams per division except for Division One South West which has 11 following the disbanding of Southampton Saints the previous season).

Premier Division[edit]

Division One[edit]

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 League's six divisions. 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. The first Cup-winners were Arsenal in the 1991–92 WFA Women's National League Cup. The first winners of a Cup without top-flight teams were Barnet F.C. Ladies in the 2010–11 FA Women's Premier League Cup.

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


The league's sponsors have included AXA (until 2004), Nationwide Building Society (2004–2007) and Tesco (2007–?).[needs update]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garin, Erik; Di Maggio, Roberto. "England – List of Women Champions". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Archived from the original on 10 August 2022. 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. Archived from the original on 14 April 2023. 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". Archived from the original on 15 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  5. ^ "An introduction to the FA Women's Premier League". The FA. 13 August 2014. Archived from the original on 22 September 2021. 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. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  7. ^ "FA Women's Championship: New name chosen for England's second tier". 26 February 2018. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.

External links[edit]