North West Counties Football League
|Other club(s) from||Isle of Man|
Division One North
Division One South
|Number of teams||60|
20 (Premier Division)
19 (Division One North)
20 (Division One South)
|Level on pyramid||9–10 (Steps 5 & 6 in the National League System)|
|Feeder to||Northern Premier League Division One West|
|Domestic cup(s)||League Challenge Cup|
First Division Challenge Cup
First Division Champions Cup
|Current champions||City of Liverpool (Premier Division)|
Longridge Town (Division One North}
Rylands (Division One South)
The North West Counties Football League is a football league in the North West of England. As of 2019–20, the league covers the Isle of Man, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cumbria, Northern Staffordshire, Northern Shropshire, the far west of West Yorkshire, and the High Peak area of Derbyshire. In the past, the league has also hosted clubs from North Wales. As from season 2018–19 the league increased from two, to three divisions: the Premier Division, at level nine (Step 5 in the NLS) in the English football league system, and two geographically separate Division Ones, North and South, at level ten (Step 6 in the NLS). The league is a member of the Joint Liaison Council which administers the Northern arm of the National Football System in England.
The league was formed in 1982 by the merger of the Cheshire County League and the Lancashire Combination. It originally consisted of three divisions, but this was reduced to two in 1987, partly because of the creation of an extra division in the Northern Premier League (NPL). At the same time, promotion and relegation between the two leagues was introduced, with either the first or second placed club in the North West Counties Football League (NWCFL) being entitled to a place in the NPL, subject to their ground meeting that league's requirements.
The NWCFL has six feeder leagues of its own with eligibility for promotion to the First Division being accorded to champions of the Cheshire Association Football League, Liverpool County Premier League, West Cheshire Amateur Football League, Staffordshire County Senior League, West Lancashire Football League, and Manchester Football League, subject to their grounds meeting the NWCFL's requirements.
The first sponsorship of the NWCFL came in with Bass who remained the league sponsors until 1995. In 1998, the regional train operating company, First North Western became the new sponsor in a two-year deal. Hallmark Security were a commercial Partner to the League for three years between 2015 and 2018.
In the 2008–09 season, Division One was renamed the Premier Division and Division Two became the First Division. A new division at level ten was announced for the 2018–19 season, therefore the First Division was recreated as North and South divisions.
Four clubs have won a league and cup double, Ashton United in 1991–92, Kidsgrove Athletic in 1997–98, F.C. United of Manchester in 2006–07 and Glossop North End in 2014–15, while Atherton Laburnum Rovers are the only club to have won consecutive championships in 1992–93 and 1993–94. For three consecutive seasons in the 1980s Clitheroe won each of the NWCFL divisions. In 1983–84 they were Division Three champions, the following season they won the Division Two championship and then in 1985–86 they were crowned Division One champions.
The league is currently home to two former Football League clubs. Northwich Victoria were founder members of Division 2 of the English Football League in 1892 but they resigned 2 seasons later. (They joined along with Newton Heath FC, who later went on to become Manchester United) Nelson, while AFC Darwen are a continuation of Darwen. The Bootle club is not the same one as the former Football League club.
Going in the other direction, former NWCFL members Accrington Stanley have risen to play in the Football League as have Fleetwood Town and more recently Salford City, who were last in the league in 2008 were promoted into the EFL at the end of the 2018-19 Season via the promotion play-off at Wembley.
For sixteen years the record attendance for a NWCFL match was 1,353 for a First Division championship decider between Radcliffe Borough and Caernarfon Town in the 1982–83 season. In the 1998–99 season a crowd of 2,281 saw Workington's championship deciding match with Mossley at Borough Park. In the 2005–06 season a new record was set, with 6,023 at Gigg Lane for a Division Two match between FC United of Manchester and Great Harwood Town on 23 April 2006. The following season, due mainly to the relatively large support for FC United of Manchester, saw attendances rise and included a record 4,058 for an evening match, with Salford City's Division One home game against FC United of Manchester.
The league has two cup competitions – the League Challenge Cup which is open to all clubs, and the First Division Challenge Cup. For sponsorship reasons the League Challenge Cup is known as The Macron Challenge Cup. Until it was disbanded in 2014, the league also ran a reserve league together with its own dedicated League Cup. From 1990 to 1991 to 1999–2000 the league also ran a Floodlit Trophy competition.
2020–21 member clubs
Division One North