The structure of the English football league system

At the top is the Premier League‘s singles division which consists of 20 clubs, which up until the 2010–11 season, were all located in England. However, 2 Welsh teams (Swansea City and Cardiff City) participated in the 2011–12 and 2013–14 seasons. The Football League isdivided into 3 parts, each consisting of 24 clubs: The Championship (Level 2), League One (Level 3) and League Two (Level 4). The 92 Premier League and Football League clubs are both professional clubs. They are often referred to as ‘League’ clubs, because prior to the founding of the Premier League in 1992, the Football League consisted of all 92 clubs, in four divisions. Clubs outside this group are considered ‘non-League’ clubs, even though they compete in league competitions.

The highest level of non-League football is the Football Conference, which consists of a National Conference (Conference Premier) with 24 clubs (Level 5), this is the lowest level where the tournament has only one league. There are two classes of competition at Level 6, covering the North (Conference North) and the South (Conference South), with 22 clubs each. Some clubs are wholly professional and others semi-professional. Under the Conference, some strong teams are still semi-professional, but due to constant relegation, everyone returns to amateurs. Lower level tournaments also tend to cater to smaller geographic regions.

Below the Football Conference are three regional leagues, each linked to different geographic regions, although there are overlaps. These are the Northern Premier League and the Southern Football League and the Isthmian League. The first one is covering the north of England and the north of Wales. The second one is covering the Midlands, the south and southwest of England, and the south of Wales. The third one is covering the southeast England. All of these tournaments have a Premier Division division of 24 teams (Level 7). Below, and covered by the region, the Northern Premier League and the Southern Football League, each tournament has two parallel divisions of 22 teams in each category (Level 8). The Isthmian League has two parallel tier 8 divisions of 24 teams each.

Level 9 contains the highest divisions of a large group of 14 sub-regions. Despite each tournament has different rankings, there is still one common thing. It is there are no other leagues under them, but covering even smaller regions.