Football league system


At the top of the football league system is the single division of the Premier League (which is sometimes referred to as Level 1 of the league 'pyramid'), containing 20 clubs. This is also known affectionately as The Premiership or officially as the Barclays Premier League for sponsorship reasons.

Below the Premier League is The Football League, which is divided into three divisions of 24 clubs each: The Championship (Level 2), League One (Level 3) and League Two (Level 4). The 92 clubs in the Premier League and Football League are all full-time professional clubs. Confusingly, all are often referred to as 'League' clubs because, before the establishment of the Premier League in 1992, the Football League included all 92 clubs, in four divisions. Clubs outside this group are referred to as 'non-League' clubs, although they too play most of their football in league competitions.

The top tier of non-League football is the Football Conference, which contains a national division of 24 clubs (Level 5), followed by two divisions at Level 6, covering the north (Conference North) and south (Conference South), with 22 clubs each. Some of these clubs are full-time professional and the others are semi-professional. Below the Conference some of the stronger clubs are semi-professional, but continuing down the tiers, soon all the clubs are amateur.

Next down from the Football Conference are three regional leagues, each associated with different geographical areas, although some overlap exists. They are the Northern Premier League (which covers the north of England), Southern League (which covers southern England, the Midlands and parts of Wales) and the Isthmian League (which covers the south east). All of the leagues have a Premier Division (Level 7) with two parallel divisions below (Level 8).

Level 9 contains the top divisions of a large group of sub-regional leagues. Each of these leagues has a different divisional set up, but they all have one thing in common: there are yet more leagues below them, each covering smaller and smaller geographical levels.