How Many Tiers are There in English Football? (Listed & Explained!)

Last Updated on May 5, 2022 by

The English Football League system has 24 levels, connected by a system of series of promotions and relegations. The first top levels are Premier League, The Championship, League 1 and League 2. In general terms, the lower level below are called non-league football.

In England, you can seldom go a day without hearing or seeing something about football. Football is so ingrained into the culture that you might think it’s the national pastime sports even though it isn’t. The National League System in England consists of at least 10 different leagues for football teams, each with their own divisions. That amounts to more than 1,000 English football clubs across all of these different leagues around the country. Talk about popular!

Football leagues in England are divided up into 3 categories: professional, semi-professional and amateur. Professional football is the most popular category at present and consists of 18 teams. The second category consists of 4 leagues which are almost entirely amateur but have small numbers of semi-professional players scattered amongst them. Finally there is the final group, which is made up of another 239 leagues that fit into the semi-professional category.

History of English Football Tiers

History of English Football Tiers

The development of the Football League in England was an outcome of reforms introduced by the Football Association. In a bid to protect against match-fixing, racism and hooliganism, English football’s governing body wanted to start regulating club competitions that would later develop into league structures. The first-ever major competition for Football League teams therefore dates back to 1872. 

Initially, only a handful of clubs were included but over time more were accepted until it became common practice to include most recently successful club applicants in the top flight tiers alongside well-established teams. Despite being around for a number of years now, the FA Cup struggled to become a professional league initially due to low attendance figures which did not make for much interest or revenue at all among spectators and minor revenue generated from broadcast rights.

The Football League was initially introduced in 1888. Over the course of two years, the originator league formed a total of 12 football clubs who then became its founding members. Following this trend, less than twenty years later in 1906, 12 rival football clubs established the “Football Alliance” – only to be renamed quickly a mere three years later as “The Football League Division 2” with promotion and relegation being offered between the two leagues. This marked the initial introduction of England’s present day league system since that time from which we see today’s famous sports six-division Premiership in England along with Divisions 1 and 2 for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland respectively.

Development of the Football League 

As professional football in the UK continued to expand, the formation of the Football League was a crucial step in this development. Following its inception and every subsequent season, more and more teams joined what would eventually become known as ‘The Football League’. With interest growing nationwide even outside of the league, many existing amateur leagues also began to model themselves on what was fast becoming ‘The Original League’, changing their own age-old rules and format in an effort to broaden their appeal by taking measures to lure in new fans.

The EPL has experienced huge changes over the years. It’s been modified and adapted more than a few times. The basic structure, on the other hand, has remained mainly constant: there is promotion, relegation and a standard number of top tier teams in the league. The strongest teams always get to play at this level while the weaker ones struggle in lower leagues.

The Premier League was created in 1992 as an alternative to England’s Football League, which had been the sole league structure since 1888. The newly formed Premier League began with a much more powerful league body than its predecessor and a focus on improving the standards of stadiums throughout the nation. As a result, attendances and viewership climbed considerably – making it one of the most successful sports leagues in the world today!

Different Football Leagues for Each Tier

Different Football Leagues for Each Tier
  • Tier 1

The Premier League peaks at the top of the food chain at tier 1. This league features all the major football clubs, football stars, and big names in England and world football. The Premier league mainly focuses on bringing the competition to a top world-class level marketing the sport.

  • Tier 2,3 and 4

The Football League Championship (League 1 and League 2) belong to the Tier 2, 3 and 4. 

  • Tier 5 and 6

Conference National League belongs to the Tier 5, while Tier 6 is split between Conference National’s South and North. The latter consists of 24 football clubs, while the former has a total of 44 football clubs with 22 football clubs for each conference.

  • Tier 7

The Tier 7 belongs to 3 semi-professional leagues: Isthmian League Premier Division, Northern Premier League Premier Division, and Isthmian League Premier Division.

  • Tier 8

The Tier 8 is dedicated to 2 subdivisions for each leagues in tier 7.

  • Tier 9 and 10

Tier 9 is the top tier for all regional leagues taking place all around England, and the second tier within these local leagues the Tier 10.

  • Tier 11

The Tier 11 are for county-based feeder teams, which consist of over 300+ football clubs all scattered around England.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many levels are there in English football?

The football league system in England has 24 levels, and the top two leagues, which are the Championship and Premier League have 80 teams each. But it’s important to note that there isn’t just one precise number of teams that participate in English football, as this number changes from year to year.

Who are the oldest football team in England?

Sheffield FC, who are 100 years old, have the honor of maintaining the oldest football club that is not associated with a hospital or University. Founded in 1857 by Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, they made history after being granted permission to play games on their local sports fields as long as there was no charge for admission and the gate receipts were shared between them including other nearby teams.

What is the lowest English Football League?

The lowest division in the English football, football league pyramid organised on a nationwide basis with those currently placed at it being the sixth tier of club football. It was previously known as the Football Conference before being renamed The National League just last season.

What is the lowest professional football league in England?

The National League is the 2nd tier in England’s football league system, below the Premier League and above four lower leagues – The National Conference, RFL Conference, RFL Regional Leagues Central/South & East as well as last year’s champions of The Open Championship, Challenge Cup and Super 8.

Which is the top tier of English football?

The Football Association (FA) accepted a Saturday “friendly non-promoting league” called the Lincolnshire League into the football conference system in England, midyear 2017. The FA has three levels at this point: Premier League, Championship, and National League – with the third level including multiple divisions, too.

When did the Football League become the fourth tier?

When the English Football Association created the Premier League as one of a number of new divisions, it became known as the fourth tier league . In 2004, when a third division was added to the mix, being called the Football League Championship , this subsequently renamed what had previously been known as Division Three ‘Football League Two’.

What happens to the bottom teams in the Football League?

Teams play other teams in their divisions. The team who loses the championship match plays a higher-ranked runner-up club one more time, with the loser of that match playing at a lower level next season than they started at. If there are more than 22 teams, the bottom team(s) either go to a lower division or are relegated to a lower division. If less than 22 teams, the top team(s) go to a higher division or are promoted to a higher division.

Final Thoughts 

We’ve come to the end of this informative article. We hope you were able to find good resources in your quest to know how many tiers are there in English football. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact us. Thanks!

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