Northern Football League
|Number of teams||44|
|Level on pyramid||Levels 9 and 10|
|Feeder to||Northern Premier League
Division One North
|Domestic cup(s)||Northern League Challenge Cup
Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup
J.R. Cleator Cup
|Current champions||Shildon (Division One)
South Shields (Division Two)
|Website||Ebac Northern League|
The Northern League is a men's football league in north east England for semi-professional and amateur teams. Having been founded in 1889, it is the oldest surviving football league in the world after the Football League.
It contains two divisions; Division One and Division Two. Division One sits on the ninth tier of the English football league system, five divisions below the Football League. These leagues cover County Durham, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, northern Cumbria and the northern half of North Yorkshire.
One of the top three teams of Division One may be eligible for promotion to Division One North of the Northern Premier League, subject to certain criteria.
The Northern League ran as one of two major amateur competitions (with the Isthmian League) in tandem with the professional Football League, Southern League and, since 1968, the Northern Premier League.
In 1974, amateur status was abandoned by the Football Association and amateur leagues like the Northern had to find a place in the overall structure of non-League football. Unlike its southern equivalent the Isthmian League who became a feeder in 1982, the Northern League rejected repeated invitations to become a feeder league to the Alliance Premier League, later the Conference, when that league was created in 1979.
Ultimately, the Northern League remained out of the football pyramid until 1991, a decision that proved very costly to its status. The league declined throughout the 1980s as its leading clubs defected to other leagues within the football pyramid, such as the Northern Counties East Football League.
When the Northern League was finally forced into the pyramid, the opportunity to become a feeder league to the Conference had long passed and the Northern League was forced to become a feeder league to the lower division of the Northern Premier League, two tiers below the Conference.
The League suffered a further blow to its prestige in 1995 when the Football Association limited the entry to the FA Trophy to the first three steps of the pyramid thereby disqualifying the Northern League's clubs and those in equivalent competitions from competing for the FA Trophy. Northern League clubs now compete for the FA Vase.
The League had an unusual sponsorship deal put in place by Brooks Mileson, owner of the Albany Group, who were its sponsors in 2003. In that year, Mileson announced that he had created a trust which would continue to sponsor the league throughout his lifetime and that of his sons. In 2008, however, the league announced that this sponsorship had come to an end, and it held a raffle to determine its next sponsor. Interested parties were invited to buy a stake in the raffle for £250. The winning stake was held by a local training company and the league was known as the skilltrainingltd Northern League from the 2008–09 season until the 2011–12 season. The league is currently sponsored by dehumidifier manufacturer Ebac.
Originally the league comprised a single division. The champions were as follows:
|1889–90||Darlington St. Augustine's|
|Season||Division One||Division Two|
|1898–99||Bishop Auckland||Stockton St. John's|
In 1900, the league reverted to a single division.
|1902–03||Newcastle United A|
|1903–04||Newcastle United A|
|1904–05||Newcastle United A|
In 1905 the league split into two sections, one for professionals and one for amateurs. This lasted for a single season.
|1905–06||Sunderland A||Bishop Auckland|
In 1906 the league reverted to a single division, a format retained until 1982.
In 1982 the league added a second division.
Northern League teams play in a number of Cup competitions:
At national level:
At regional level:
At league level
- Northern League Challenge Cup
- Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup (for Division 2 teams only)
- JR Cleator Cup (curtain raiser between League and Cup winners)
- Anthony Vickers (2008-08-08). "League's new name". Evening Gazette. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- Steve Brown (2012-06-04). "The Northern League has a new sponsor – County Durham-based dehumidifier manufacturer Ebac Ltd.". Sunday Sun. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- "England – Northern League". RSSSF. 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- "HOWDEN-LE-WEAR". Football Club History Database. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- "STOCKTON ST JOHN'S". Football Club History Database. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- "WHITBY". Football Club History Database. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- "ESH WINNING RANGERS". Football Club History Database. Retrieved 2012-11-19.