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This section deals with men's football in England. For more information on the development of the women's game, please click here.

LEAGUE STRUCTURE

This is a tabular summary of the English league structure from the beginning of the 2021-22 season: -

- Levels 1-4: league football
1.Premier League
2.EFL Championship
3.EFL League 1
4.EFL League 2
- Levels 5-8: National League System Steps 1-4
5.National League
6.National League
North
National League
South
7.Northern Premier League
Premier
Southern League
Premier Central
Southern League
Premier South
Isthmian League
Premier
8.Northern Premier League
West
Northern Premier League
East
Northern Premier League
Midlands
Southern League
Division 1 Central
Southern League
Division 1 South
Isthmian League
South Central
Isthmian League
North
Isthmian League
South East
- Levels 9 & below: regional leagues

The tables below give a rough approximation of the system. It ought to be noted that the means by which one league interacts with another is more fluid. This overview is one of convenience, and is reflected in the various subpages of each season of English football. Please also note that only leagues active in the recent past (specifically since the development of the "pyramid" during the latter years of the 20th & early 21st centuries) are included.

NB leagues in bold are recognised leagues in the National League System at Steps 5-7, the highest tier being to the left. Those in italics are unofficial feeders of the leagues at a higher level. Leagues shown with a grey background are defunct.

- Northern Premier League feeders
Northern LeagueNorthern AllianceNorth East Combination
North Northumberland League
Newcastle Corinthians League
North Riding League
Wearside LeagueCrook & District League
Cumberland County League
Tyneside Amateur League
Durham Alliance
Durham Alliance Combination
Eskvale & Cleveland League
Teesside League
Wearside Combination
North West Counties LeagueWest Lancashire LeagueFurness Premier League
Lancashire Amateur LeagueRochdale Alliance
East Lancashire LeagueBlackburn & District Combination
Accrington & District Combination
Burnley & District League
Mid Lancashire LeagueSouthport & District League
Wigan & District League
Chorley & District Alliance League
North Lancashire & District League
Westmorland League
Liverpool County Premier LeagueI Zingari Combination
Liverpool Old Boys League
Liverpool & District CMS League
Manchester LeagueLancashire & Cheshire Amateur LeagueManchester Saturday Morning League
Stockport & District League
West Cheshire LeagueChester & Wirral League
Warrington & District League
Birkenhead & Wirral League
St. Helens & District Combination
Cheshire LeagueAltrincham & District Amateur League
Crewe & District League
Hope Valley Amateur League
East Cheshire League
Staffordshire County Senior LeagueBurton & District FA League
Northern Counties East LeagueHumber Premier LeagueEast Riding County LeagueDriffield & District League
Scarborough & District League
East Riding Amateur League
York & District LeagueBeckett League
West Yorkshire LeagueCraven & District LeagueWensleydale League
Wharfedale Triangle League
Halifax & District League
Harrogate & District League
Huddersfield & District LeagueHuddersfield & District Works & Combination League
Wakefield & District FA League
Leeds Red Triangle League
Selby & District League
Spen Valley & District League
Yorkshire Amateur League
West Riding Amateur League
Sheffield & Hallamshire LeagueDoncaster & District League
South Yorkshire League
Central Midlands LeagueMidlands Regional AllianceMatlock & District League
Lincolnshire LeagueEast Lincolnshire Combination
Scunthorpe & District League
Grantham & District League
Lincoln & District Saturday League
Nottinghamshire Senior LeagueNottinghamshire & Midland Amateur Alliance
Midland Amateur Alliance
Nottinghamshire Amateur Alliance
East Midlands Counties League
- Southern League Central feeders
Midland LeagueWest Midlands (Regional) LeagueCoventry Alliance
Herefordshire FA County League
Shropshire Premier LeagueTelford Combination
Stratford-upon-Avon Alliance
Wolverhampton & District Combination
Birmingham & District League
Midland CombinationKidderminster & District League
Worcester & District League
United Counties LeagueBedfordshire County LeagueLuton, District & South Bedfordshire League
Leicestershire Senior LeagueNorth Leicestershire LeagueLeicester & District League
Northamptonshire Combination LeagueNorthampton Town & District League
Peterborough & District League
Hellenic LeagueNorth Berkshire League
Oxfordshire Senior LeagueBanbury & Lord Jersey FA
Oxford City FA
Witney & District FA League
Thames Valley League
Chiltonian League
Spartan South Midlands LeagueAylesbury & District League
East Berkshire League
Hertfordshire Senior County LeagueHertford & District League
West Hertfordshire Saturday League
Bishop's Stortford, Stanstead & District League
North Buckinghamshire & District League
- Southern League South feeders
Western LeagueWiltshire Senior LeagueSalisbury & District League
Swindon & District League
Trowbridge & District League League
Gloucestershire County LeagueBristol Premier CombinationBristol & District LeagueBristol Downs League
Bristol & Avon League
Bristol & Suburban League
Gloucester Northern Senior LeagueCheltenham LeagueCirencester & District League
North Gloucestershire League
Stroud & District League
Somerset County LeagueMid-Somerset League
Perry Street & District League
Taunton & District League
Weston-super-Mare & District League
Yeovil & District League
Bath & North Somerset League
 South-West Peninsular LeagueDevon LeagueDevon & Exeter League
North Devon League
Plymouth & West Devon League
South Devon League
St. Piran LeagueCornwall CombinationTrelawny League
Falmouth & Helston League
Mining League
East Cornwall LeagueDuchy League
Kingsley League
Wessex LeagueDorset Premier LeagueDorset LeagueBournemouth Saturday League
Hampshire Premier LeagueAldershot & District League
Andover & District League
Basingstoke & District League
Southampton Saturday LeagueIsle of Wight Saturday League
Andover & District League
Hampshire League 2004
Portsmouth Saturday League
- Isthmian League feeders
Southern CombinationEast Sussex League
Mid-Sussex League
West Sussex LeagueBrighton, Worthing & District League
Brighton, Hove & District League
Worthing & District League
Southern Counties East LeagueKent Invicta LeagueKent County LeagueAshford & District Saturday League
Bromley & South London League
Canterbury & District League
Rochester & District League
Sevenoaks & District League
Rochester & District League
Bromley & District League
Maidstone & District League
South London Alliance
Thanet & District League
Tonbridge & District League
Combined Counties LeagueMiddlesex County LeagueKingston & District League
Redhill & District League
West End (London) AFA League
Wimbledon & District League
Hounslow & District League
Surrey Elite Intermediate LeagueSurrey County Intermediate League (Western)Guildford & Woking Alliance League
Surrey South Eastern Combination
Essex Senior LeagueEssex Olympian LeagueColchester & East Essex League
Essex Alliance League
Mid-Essex League
Southend Borough Combination
Essex Business Houses League
Ilford & District League
Romford & District League
Eastern Counties LeagueAnglian CombinationCentral & South Norfolk League
Great Yarmouth & District League
Lowestoft & District League
North East Norfolk League
North West Norfolk League
St. Edmundsbury League
Norwich & District Saturday League
Cambridgeshire County League
Essex & Suffolk Border League
Suffolk & Ipswich League

DEVELOPMENT OF THE PYRAMID

Many moons ago, the Non-League Times produced a very good overview of the development of non-league football in England.

This section furnishes an overview of key changes in the history of the English league system. It covers the top levels only, more specifically the Premier, Football and National Leagues: -

- 2021: the "perfect pyramid"

The current structure, adopted from the beginning of the 2021-22 season after being delayed due to COVID, has a mathematically-simple formula of one, two, four, eight and sixteen leagues at Steps 1-5 (levels 5-9).

- 2004: Conference North & South
Premier League
Championship
League 1
League 2
Conference National
Conference NorthConference South
Northern Premier League
Premier
Southern League
Premier
Isthmian League
Premier
Northern Premier League
Division 1
Southern League
Division 1 West
Southern League
Division 1 East
Isthmian League
Division 1

Two seasons after the introduction of a two up/two down system between the Football League's 3rd Division and the Conference, two new regional divisions were added below the latter league.

- 1992: the Premier League
Premier League
Division 1
Division 2
Division 3
Conference
Northern Premier League
Premier
Southern League
Premier
Isthmian League
Premier
Northern Premier League
Division 1
Southern League
Midland
Southern League
Southern
Isthmian League
Division 1

Top-level football finds itself quids in with the introduction of the breakaway Premier League. The remaining Football League teams are now organised into three, rather than four, divisions.

- 1986: the end of re-election

The 1986-87 season sees the introduction of direct promotion to and relegation from the Football League. Scarborough are the first team to benefit, with Lincoln City being the first team to lose their league status by this means.

- 1985: the league that came in from the cold
Division 1
Division 2
Division 3
Division 4
Alliance Premier League
Northern Premier LeagueSouthern LeagueIsthmian League

A year earlier, after some resistance from both itself and the Northern League, the Isthmian League (which had already lost two strong clubs to the Alliance Premier League) was accepted as a level six league.

- 1979: the Alliance Premier League
Division 1
Division 2
Division 3
Division 4
Alliance Premier League
Northern Premier LeagueSouthern League
Premier
Cheshire County LeagueLancashire CombinationMidland LeagueNorthern AllianceSouthern League
Midland
Southern League
Southern

The Cheshire Combination League and Lancashire Combination would merge to form the North West Counties League, while the Midland League would join forces with the Yorkshire League as the Northern Counties East League during the rationalisation of the feeder system in the north of England in 1982. The Northern Alliance would eventually serve as a feeder to the Northern League when that outfit reluctantly agreed to sit beneath the Northern Premier League.

1979 saw the introduction of a non-Football League competition with a national catchment in the form of the Alliance Premier League.

- 1974: the death-knell for amateurism

MAJOR POST-WAR AMATEUR LEAGUES

Isthmian LeagueNorthern League
Athenian League
Corinthian League
Delphian League

The Athenian League served as a feeder to the Isthmian League up to its incorporation into the latter in 1984. The Corinthian & Delphian Leagues were founded later than the others, during the post-war years, and both were swallowed up by the Athenian League prior to the 1963-64 campaign.

In 1974, the Football Association in its wisdom decided to abolish amateur status.

- 1968: the Northern Premier League
Division 1
Division 2
Division 3
Division 4
Northern Premier LeagueSouthern League
Premier
Cheshire County LeagueLancashire CombinationMidland LeagueNorthern AllianceSouthern League
Division 1

Keen to develop a northern analogue to the Southern League, the Lancashire Combination, Cheshire County League and Midland League (along with the North Regional League, which soon disbands) furnish some twenty teams to a new Northern Premier League.

- 1958: Division 4
Division 1
Division 2
Division 3
Division 4
Birmingham & District LeagueCheshire County LeagueLancashire CombinationMidland LeagueSouthern League
North Western Zone
Southern League
South Eastern Zone

The Birmingham & District League is not the current league alluded to above. Instead, it is the forerunner to the present-day West Midlands (Regional) League, having changed its name in 1962.

The Football League abolishes the long-standing regional Third Divisions in favour of a single Third and a new Fourth Division, both with a national footprint.

- 1921: third tier symmetry
Division 1
Division 2
Division 3 NorthDivision 3 South
Cheshire County LeagueLancashire CombinationNorth Eastern LeagueNorthern AllianceBirmingham & District CombinationBirmingham & District LeagueMidland LeagueSouthern League

A year after its incorporation of the Southern League's top flight as the new Division 3, the Football League oversees the creation of a northern division at the same level.

- 1920: southward ho!
Division 1
Division 2
Division 3
Birmingham & District CombinationBirmingham & District LeagueCentral LeagueCheshire County LeagueLancashire CombinationMidland LeagueNorth Eastern LeagueNorthern AllianceSouthern League

All first teams participating in the Central League became members of Division 3 North a year later, with that league surviving thereafter as a competition for reserve teams.

Division 1 of the Southern League is imported wholesale into the Football League to form the new Division 3.

- 1894: Southern League

Whilst the Football League was proving to be a successful competition, Woolwich Arsenal aside, all of its members hailed from the north of England and the Midlands. An abortive attempt had been made to form a southern counterpart as early as 1892 in the form of the Southern Alliance, but the Southern League, founded this year, would prove to be more successful, even supplying an FA Cup winner (Tottenham Hotspur in 1901) and runner-up (Southampton a year earlier and again in 1902).

- 1892: Division 2
Division 1
Division 2

The Football League incorporates teams, primarily from the Football Alliance, to form a new second tier. Promotion and relegation is originally decided via "test matches": play-offs precede automatic promotion.

- 1888: the foundation of the Football League

Under the influence of a Mr. William McGregor, a Perthshire man living in Birmingham, twelve teams from Lancashire and the Midlands agree to the formation of the first football league in existence. Not everyone is happy: a number of teams who missed out form the Football Combination, an inchoate fixture circle which is never completed and, a year later, the Football Alliance, while various regional leagues also appear in short order (one, the Northern League, is still in existence, as is the Birmingham & District League under a different name, while "descendants" of the Lancashire and Midland Leagues also remain).

- 1871: the FA Cup

Although its prestige has waned during the Premier League era, the FA Cup still maintains an aura in the hearts & minds of many men, both in England and abroad. Originally the preserve of the gentleman amateur, by its second decade the Cup came to be dominated by the new powerhouses of the industrial North and Midlands. Various competitions with a more local footprint are also organised during this time, the earliest being in Sheffield (and played under the auspices of the Sheffield rules) in the late 1860s.

These cups, principally the FA Cup, are used to gauge the performances of teams during the era preceding the formation of the Football League.

As for the benighted gentleman amateur, left behind by the rude hordes from the industrial heartlands and Lancashire mill towns, they would organise another, strictly non-professional, competition, the FA Amateur Cup. Of course, this too came to be dominated by those same rude hordes, necessitating the formation of the Arthur Dunn Cup, open only to teams of alumni from top private schools.

- 1863: the Football Association

It was those gentleman amateurs who were key to bringing football to the world, by codifying a set of rules by which to conduct affairs on the field of play. This happened in 1863 (and soon led to the secession of those who preferred egg-chasing).


This section deals with women's football in England. For more information on the development of the men's game, please click here.

LEAGUE STRUCTURE

This is a tabular summary of the English league structure from the beginning of the 2021-22 season: -

- Levels 1-5
1.FA Women's Super League
2.FA Women's Championship Championship
3.FA Women's National League
Northern Premier Division
FA Women's National League
Southern Premier Division
4.FA Women's National League
Division 1 North
FA Women's National League
Division 1 Midlands
FA Women's National League
Division 1 South West
FA Women's National League
Division 1 South East
5.North West Women's Regional LeagueNorth East Regional Women's LeagueWest Midlands Regional Women's LeagueEast Midlands Regional Women's LeagueSouthern Region Women's LeagueSouth West Regional Women's LeagueEastern Region Women's LeagueLondon & South East Women's Regional League
- Levels 6 & below

Level 6 features a second tier of all level 5 leagues with the exception of the London & South East Women's Regional League, which is fed at this step by the South East Counties Women's League and Greater London Women's League. These second tiers - entitled Division 1 - are formed of two geographically-based divisions, generally North and South, though the South West Regional Women's League features Division 1 East, Division 1 West and occasionally Division 1 North.

North West Women's Regional LeagueCheshire Women's & Youth League
Greater Manchester Women's League
Lancashire FA Women's County League
Liverpool County FA Women's League
North East Regional Women's LeagueDurham County FA Women's League
East Riding County Women's League
North Riding Women's League
Sheffield & Hallamshire Women's League
West Riding County Women's League
West Midlands Regional Women's LeagueBirmingham County Women's League
Midwest Counties Female League
Staffordshire County Women's League
East Midlands Regional Women's LeagueDerbyshire Ladies' League
Leicestershire Women's Senior League
Lincolnshire County Women's League
Northamptonshire Women's League
Nottinghamshire Ladies' League
Southern Region Women's LeagueHampshire County Women's League
Thames Valley Counties Women's League
South West Regional Women's LeagueCornwall Women's League
Devon Women's League
Dorset Women's League
Gloucestershire County Women's League
Somerset County Women's League
Wiltshire County Women's League
Eastern Region Women's LeagueBedfordshire & Hertfordshire County Women's League
Cambridgeshire Women's County League
Essex County Women's League
Norfolk Women's League
Suffolk Women's League
South East Counties Women's LeagueSouth East Counties Women's League Division 1 (East)
South East Counties Women's League Division 1 (West)
South East Counties Women's League Kent Division 1
Sussex County Women's League
Greater London Women's League

DEVELOPMENT OF THE PYRAMID

The table below highlights the major developments in the top levels of women's football in England from before the founding of a league with a national footprint to the most recent changes to the system: -

 1969-19911991-941994-19981998-20102010-20142014-2018
1.Various leagues*
in operation on
a regional basis.
WFA National League
Premier
Women's Premier League
National
Women's Super LeagueWomen's Super League 1
2.WFA National League
Northern | Southern
Women's Premier League
Northern | Southern
Women's Premier League
National
Women's Super League 2
3.Regional leaguesCombination Leagues
Northern | Midland | South West | South East
Women's Premier League
Northern | Southern
4.Regional leaguesCombination Leagues
Northern | Midland | South West | South East
Women's Premier League Division 1
Northern | Midland | South West | South East

* the earliest regional women's leagues in operation include the Southampton League (active as early as 1966), Midland Ladies' League (founded in 1969), the Heart of England Ladies' League, Home Counties Women's League, Kent Women's League & Torbay Women's League (1970), Merseyside & Wirral League (1971), as well as later foundations such as the Three Counties Women's League (covering the north west of England), Hull Women's League and the highly-esteemed Nottingham Ladies' League.

Sir Graham