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The Non League Pyramid

The Non League Pyramid also known as the National League System is a system used to divide non league football teams in England. Teams who find themselves in or below the fifth tier of football in England (below the Premier League, Championship, League 1 and League 2) make up this pyramid. Under the jurisdiction of the Football Association, this system is comprised of seven steps containing 91 different leagues which operate on a traditional format of promotion and relegation.

The pyramid system has changed and evolved dramatically over the years, the most recent change being the formation of National League North and National League South divisions immediately below the National League Premier Division which created a new step of the pyramid and forced the Northern Premier League, Southern League and Isthmian League down one tier. As the pyramid progresses downwards, more leagues are added at each level, with teams being divided by their geographical location. It is also important to note that promotion of teams is not based solely on positions in their league table, as each team must pass requirements such as ground grading by the FA in order to progress upwards in the National League System.

Step 1: National League
The first step of the Non League Pyramid contains just one division; The National League (also known as The Vanarama National League). This league is the fifth tier of football in England and it is considered to be more difficult to be promoted from this division to the football league as only two teams are promoted from it each season, whereas four teams are relegated. The relegated teams are demoted to the National League North or South. It is also the lowest nationwide division in England with the 24 teams hailing from all around the country.

Step 2: National League North/National League South
The second step of the Non League Pyramid contains two divisions: The National League North (The Vanarama North) and The National League South (The Vanarama South). These two leagues contain 22 teams from the north and south of England respectively and are both on the sixth tier of football in England. The champions and play-off winners from each division enter the National League Premier division each year. Three clubs from each division are relegated, meaning that six teams from step two of the pyramid are relegated to the seventh tier of English football league system. The league that they are relegated to on the third step of the pyramid depends on their geographical location.

Step 3: Northern Premier League/Southern League/Isthmian League
The third step off the Non League Pyramid contains the Premier Divisions of three leagues: the Northern Premier League (Evo-stik League), the Southern League (Calor League) and the Isthmian League (Ryman League). Each league contains amounts of teams ranging from 22 to 24, with their geographical location deciding which league they are placed in. Similar to step two of the non-league pyramid, the champions and play-off winners of each division are promoted to the appropriate league in step two of the pyramid. 12 teams (four teams from each league) can be relegated to the fourth step of the non league pyramid and the eighth tier of football in England.

 

Step Non-League Pyramid
1 National League(Vanarama National League)
Clubs promoted to The Football League (League Two): Champion and winner of 2nd–5th play-off.Clubs relegated to either National League North or National League South: Bottom 4 clubs.
2 National League North(The Vanarama North) National League South(The Vanarama South)
Clubs promoted to National League: Champions of both divisions and the winners of a 2nd–5th placed play-offs in each division.Clubs relegated to Step 3 divisions: Three teams from each division
3 Northern Premier League
(Evo-stik League)
Premier Division
Southern Football League
(Calor League)
Premier Division
Isthmian League
(Ryman League)
Premier Division
Clubs promoted to the National League North or South: Champions and winners of the 2nd–5th play-off for each division.Clubs relegated to Step 4 divisions: 4 sides from each division.
4 Northern Premier League
(Evo-stik League)
Division One North
Northern Premier League
(Evo-stik League)
Division One South
Southern Football League
(Calor League)
Division One Central
Southern Football League
(Calor League)
Division One South & West
Isthmian League
(Ryman League)
Division One South
Isthmian League
(Ryman League)
Division One North
Clubs promoted to Step 3 leagues: Champions and the 2nd–5th placed play-off winner from each division.Clubs relegated to Step 5 divisions are determined by the NLS Committee: Two clubs from each division.
5 Combined Counties League (Premier Div) | Eastern Counties League (Premier Div) | Essex Senior League | Hellenic League (Premier Div) | Kent League (Premier Div) | Midland Alliance | Northern Counties East League (Premier Div) | Northern League (Div One) | North West Counties League (Premier Div) | Spartan South Midlands League (Premier Div) | Sussex County League (Div One) | United Counties League (Premier Div) | Wessex League (Premier Div) | Western League (Premier Div)
Teams promoted to Step 4 divisions are determined by NLS Committee: Total of 14 League champions.Teams relegated: Arranged according to each Leagues rules and regulations with Step 6 leagues.
6 Combined Counties League (Div One) | East Midlands Counties League | Eastern Counties League (Div One) | Hellenic League (Div One East) | Hellenic League (Div One West) | Kent Invicta League | Midland Combination (Premier Div) | Northern Counties East (Div One) | Northern League (Div Two) | North West Counties League (Div One) | South West Peninsula League (Premier Div) | Spartan South Midlands League (Div One) | Sussex County League (Div Two) | United Counties League (Div One) | Wessex League (Div One) | West Midlands (Regional) League (Premier Div) | Western League (Div One)
Promotion and relegation: Arranged according to each Leagues appropriate rules and regulations.
7 Anglian Combination (Premier Div) | Central Midlands League (North Div) | Central Midlands League (South Div) | Cheshire League (Div One) | Dorset Premier League | Essex Olympian League (Premier Div) | Hertfordshire Senior County League (Premier Div) | Humber Premier League (Prem Div) | Leicestershire Senior League (Premier Div) | Midland Combination (Div One) | Northern Alliance (Premier Div) | Peterborough & District League (Premier Div) | Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League (Premier Div) | Somerset County League (Premier Div) | Staffordshire County Senior League (Premier Div) | Suffolk & Ipswich League (Senior Div) | Wearside League | West Cheshire League (Div One) | West Midlands (Regional) League (Div One) | West Yorkshire League (Premier Div) | Wiltshire League (Premier Div)
Promotion and relegation: Arranged according to each Leagues appropriate rules and regulations.
7A Bedfordshire County League (Prem Div) | Cambridgeshire League (Prem Div) | Essex & Suffolk Border League (Prem Div) | Gloucestershire County League | Hampshire Premier League | Liverpool County Premier League (Prem Div) | Manchester League (Prem Div) | Middlesex County League (Prem Div) | Northamptonshire Combination (Prem Div) | Nottinghamshire Senior League (Prem Div) | Oxfordshire Senior League (Prem Div) | Reading League (Senior Div) | South West Peninsula League (Div 1 East) | South West Peninsula League (Div 1 West) | Sussex County League (Div Three) | West Lancashire League (Prem Div)
Promotion and relegation: Arranged according to each Leagues appropriate rules and regulations.
7B Kent County League (Prem Div) | Spartan South Midlands League (Div Two) | Surrey Elite Intermediate League | Teesside Football League (Div One)
Promotion and relegation: Arranged according to each Leagues appropriate rules and regulations.Note: Step 7 leagues that have divisions below this level, will only have the division at Step 7 as part of the National League System.