Non-League football

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Non-League football refers to football in England played at a level below that of the FA Premier League and The Football League. The term non-League came into common use before 1992 when the top football clubs in England all belonged to The Football League; all clubs who were not a part of The Football League were therefore non-League clubs. North of the border in Scotland it is called the Junior leagues. It also used throughout Europe.

The "League" of "non-League football" refers to the Football League (hence the capital "L"), rather than leagues in general - "non-League" clubs play most of their football in league competitions. There are many leagues below the level of The Football League, and some, such as the Northern League, are almost as old as the League itself. Most of these are regional leagues organised by The Football Association, the sport's governing body in England, into a National League System (NLS). The NLS has seven levels or steps, and includes over 50 separate leagues, many with more than one division.

Prior to 1987 there was no automatic promotion and relegation between The Football League and the leagues of non-league football. The bottom clubs of The Football League were required to apply for re-election to the League at the end of the season, but this was in most cases a mere formality. The system ensured that League membership remained relatively static, with non-league clubs having almost no chance of joining.

However major change came in 1987 when automatic promotion and relegation of one club between The Football League and The Football Conference, the top league in non-league football, was introduced, subject to the eligible club meeting the required facility and financial standards. Scarborough became the first non-league club to win automatic promotion to The Football League, and Lincoln City became the first League club to be relegated to the ranks of non-League football. Since 2003 two clubs from the Conference have been promoted at the end of each season.

The entire English football league system includes the Premier League, The Football League, the NLS leagues, and any local leagues that have feeder relationships with an NLS football

Non-League football

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