North West Counties Football League
The North West Counties Football League is a football league in the North West of England. As of 2019–20, the league covers Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cumbria, Northern Staffordshire, Northern Shropshire, the far west of West Yorkshire, and the High Peak area of Derbyshire. In the past, the league has also hosted clubs from North Wales. As from season 2018–19 the league increased from two, to three divisions: the Premier Division, at level nine (Step 5 in the NLS) in the English football league system, and two geographically separate Division Ones, North and South, at level ten (Step 6 in the NLS). The league is a member of the Joint Liaison Council which administers the Northern arm of the National Football System in England.
Division One North
Division One South
|Number of teams||60|
20 (Premier Division)
20 (Division One North)
20 (Division One South)
|Level on pyramid||9–10 Steps 5&6 in the National League System|
|Feeder to||Northern Premier League Division One West|
|Domestic cup(s)||League Challenge Cup|
First Division Challenge Cup
First Division Champions Cup
|Current champions||City of Liverpool (Premier Division)|
Longridge Town (Division One North}
Rylands (Division One South)
The league was formed in 1982 by the merger of the Cheshire County League and the Lancashire Combination. It originally consisted of three divisions, but this was reduced to two in 1987, partly because of the creation of an extra division in the Northern Premier League (NPL). At the same time, promotion and relegation between the two leagues was introduced, with either the first or second placed club in the North West Counties Football League (NWCFL) being entitled to a place in the NPL, subject to their ground meeting that league's requirements.
The NWCFL has six feeder leagues of its own with eligibility for promotion to the First Division being accorded to champions of the Cheshire Association Football League, Liverpool County Premier League, West Cheshire Amateur Football League, Staffordshire County Senior League, West Lancashire Football League, and Manchester Football League, subject to their grounds meeting the NWCFL's requirements.
The first sponsorship of the NWCFL came in with Bass who remained the league sponsors until 1995. In 1998, the regional train operating company, First North Western became the new sponsor in a two-year deal. Hallmark Security were a commercial Partner to the League for three years between 2015 and 2018.
In the 2008–09 season, Division One was renamed the Premier Division and Division Two became the First Division. A new division at level ten was announced for the 2018–19 season, therefore the First Division was recreated as North and South divisions.
Four clubs have won a league and cup double, Ashton United in 1991–92, Kidsgrove Athletic in 1997–98, F.C. United of Manchester in 2006–07 and Glossop North End in 2014–15, while Atherton Laburnum Rovers are the only club to have won consecutive championships in 1992–93 and 1993–94. For three consecutive seasons in the 1980s Clitheroe won each of the NWCFL divisions. In 1983–84 they were Division Three champions, the following season they won the Division Two championship and then in 1985–86 they were crowned Division One champions.
The league is currently home to two former Football League clubs. Northwich Victoria were founder members of Division 2 of the English Football League in 1892 but they resigned 2 seasons later. (They joined along with Newton Heath FC, who later went on to become Manchester United) Nelson, while AFC Darwen are a continuation of Darwen. The Bootle club is not the same one as the former Football League club.
Going in the other direction, former NWCFL members Accrington Stanley have risen to play in the Football League as have Fleetwood Town and more recently Salford City, who were last in the league in 2008 were promoted into the EFL at the end of the 2018-19 Season via the promotion play-off at Wembley.
For sixteen years the record attendance for a NWCFL match was 1,353 for a First Division championship decider between Radcliffe Borough and Caernarfon Town in the 1982–83 season. In the 1998–99 season a crowd of 2,281 saw Workington's championship deciding match with Mossley at Borough Park. In the 2005–06 season a new record was set, with 6,023 at Gigg Lane for a Division Two match between FC United of Manchester and Great Harwood Town on 23 April 2006. The following season, due mainly to the relatively large support for FC United of Manchester, saw attendances rise and included a record 4,058 for an evening match, with Salford City's Division One home game against FC United of Manchester.
The league has two cup competitions – the League Challenge Cup which is open to all clubs, and the First Division Challenge Cup. For sponsorship reasons the League Challenge Cup is known as The Macron Challenge Cup. Until it was disbanded in 2014, the league also ran a reserve league together with its own dedicated League Cup. From 1990 to 1991 to 1999–2000 the league also ran a Floodlit Trophy competition.
2019–20 member clubs
Previous divisional champions
The league was formed with three divisions.
|Season||Division One||Division Two||Division Three|
|1982–83||Burscough||Radcliffe Borough||Colne Dynamoes|
|1983–84||Stalybridge Celtic||Fleetwood Town||Clitheroe|
|1984–85||Radcliffe Borough||Clitheroe||Kirkby Town|
|1985–86||Clitheroe||Kirkby Town||Blackpool Mechanics|
|1986–87||Stalybridge Celtic||Droylsden||Atherton Collieries|
Due to the expansion of the Northern Premier League, and the withdrawal of clubs who could no longer meet the ground requirements, the third division was disbanded and a two division format was instigated, a format that still remains in place.
In the 2008–09 season, the league renamed their divisions to the Premier Division and First Division.
As from the 2018–19 the league has operated three divisions, the Premier Division at Step 5 and Division one - the Step 6 division being split geographically into North and South components both with promotional slots to Step 5. This is retained for the 2019-20 season.
|Season||Premier Division||Division One North||Division One South|
|2018–19||City of Liverpool||Longridge Town||Rylands|
League Challenge Cup winners
The NWCFL League Challenge Cup is for all members of the league.
First Division Challenge Cup winners
The First Division Challenge Cup is for all members of the First Division. It was known as the Second Division Trophy from 1989 to 2008.
First Division Champions Cup winners
The First Division Champions Cup is for the winners of the two geographical divisions within Division One. Its inaugural season was 2018–19.
Floodlit Trophy winners
The NWCFL Floodlit Trophy was for all members of the Premier and First divisions.
- "LEAGUE HISTORY – A Brief History of the North West Counties Football League". North West Counties Football League. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
- "FA National League System Restructure – season 2018/19". NWCFL. 18 July 2017.
- "FA Announcement: New Step 6 Divisions allocated". NWCFL. 8 October 2017.
- "League announces 4-year partnership deal with Macron". NWCFL. 7 June 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "News from the League AGM". NWCFL. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- Note that the Fleetwood Town club that won the Division Two title in 1983–84 is not the same club as the one of the same name who won the Division One Championship in 2004–05. The earlier club folded in 1993, and the new club was not formed until 1997 as Fleetwood Wanderers, then Fleetwood Freeport before taking the Fleetwood Town name in 2002.
- "Ramsbottom Are Champions". Non League Daily. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
- "Double Celebration For Wigan Robin Park". NWCFL. Retrieved 29 April 2012.