the football association league system


 The FA's National League System Committee determine promotion and relegation between leagues shown, mainly based on location. The table below includes the seven steps of the National League System (NLS) currently relating to team's from Nottinghamshire.

Step League

Conference National 

Promoted to League Two of The Football League: Champion and winner of 2nd-5th playoff.
Relegated to either Conference North or Conference South: 3 clubs.
2 Conference North
Promoted to Conference National: Champion & the winners of a 2nd-5th playoff 
Relegated to Step 3 leagues: 3 clubs

Northern Premier League Premier Division

Promoted, to Conference North or South: Champion and winner of 2nd-5th playoff 
Relegated to Step 4 leagues: 4 clubs

Northern Premier League Division One North & South

Promoted to Step 3 leagues: Champion and winner of 2nd - 5th playoff
Relegation to Step 5 leagues determined by NLS Committee: 2 clubs


Northern Counties East Premier Division

Promoted, to Step 4 leagues determined by NLS Committee: Total of 8 League champions.
Relegated: Arranged according to separate agreements with the NCEL First Division & EMCL.

Northern Counties East First Division

East Midlands Counties League
Promotion and relegation: Arranged according to separate agreements with the NCEL Premier, EMCL & other appropriate leagues.

Central Midlands League Supreme Division

Nottinghamshire Senior League
Promotion and relegation: Arranged according to separate agreements with appropriate leagues.
Note: The lower levels of the CML & NSL are not considered part of the National League System.



The National League System, commonly known as the Football Pyramid, is a comprehensive league structure for football clubs in England playing below the level of the FA Premiership and The Football League. Comprising over 500 league competitions, and over 7,000 clubs playing non-league football, it comes under the jurisdiction of The Football Association. 

The National League System has a hierarchical format with promotion and relegation between leagues at different levels, and allows even the smallest club to dream of rising to the very top of the English football league system. At the top of the National League System pyramid is the Football Conference. Its top division, the Conference National (currently called the Blue Square Conference), is the only division in the system which is organised on a national rather than regional basis. 

Below the Conference, the layers have progressively more leagues and cover ever smaller geographic areas. Some leagues have more than one division. At the lower levels the existence of leagues becomes intermittent, although in some areas there are as many as twenty layers.

All the leagues are bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation. Clubs that are successful in their league can rise higher in the pyramid, whilst those that finish at the bottom can find themselves sinking further down. In theory it is possible for a lowly local amateur club to rise to the pinnacle of the English game and become champions of the FA Premier League. While this may be unlikely in practice, there certainly is significant movement within the pyramid. The number of teams promoted between leagues or divisions varies, and promotion is usually contingent on meeting criteria set by the higher league, especially concerning appropriate facilities and finances. For a full breakdown of the ground grading criteria, click here.

Under the direction of The Football Association, the National League System evolved over many years, finally reaching the point of encompassing virtually the entire organised sport. With around 2,200 leagues and 40,000 clubs, the National League System involves hundreds of thousands of players. Although world-famous full-time professionals may play in a few teams, most are strictly local amateur clubs playing before relatively few spectators.

The National League System does not include Sunday League football ans some Saturday leagues, such as the Nottinghamshire Senior League. These leagues are independent entities with no promotion or relegation involving the football pyramid. However, some Sunday League clubs have been known to join pyramid leagues if they desire to progress higher.

Changes affecting Notts clubs


The FA Leagues Committee added the East Midlands Counties League at Step 6.


  • The FA Leagues Committee agreed to increase the number of Step 4 leagues to 6 for the 2007-08 season, with the new Step 4 league being administered by the Northern Premier League (Unibond League).
  • The Northern Premier League contained18 clubs, with the restriction that no more than 3 clubs will be promoted from any Step 5 league without that league's permission. As well as league position, promotion was to be dependent upon a club applying for promotion and by achieving Ground Grading Category E.
  • The Northern Premier League had two lower divisions, split on a North/South basis.


  • The Conference National was increased to 24 clubs but steps 2 and 3 remained unchanged.
  • There was also the prospect of the Northern Premier League Division One being split into Divisions One North and Midlands, but this was not acted on, although the number of clubs was increased to 24 in preparation for this happening at a later date.


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