Northern Premier League

The Northern Premier League is an English football league that was founded in 1968. It has three divisions - the Premier Division (which stands at level 7 of the English football league system) - and Division One North West and Division One South East (which both stand at level 8).

Northern Premier League
Number of teams62
22 (Premier Division)
20 (Division One North West)
20 (Division One South East)
Level on pyramid7 and 8
Promotion toLevel 6
National League North
Relegation toLevel 9
Northern Football League
Northern Counties East Football League
North West Counties Football League
Midland Football League
United Counties League
Eastern Counties Football League
Domestic cup(s)National
FA Cup
FA Trophy
League Challenge Cup
Current championsFarsley Celtic (Premier Division)
Atherton Collieries (Division One West)
Morpeth Town (Division One East)
WebsiteNorthern Premier League

Geographically, the league covers all of Northern England and the northern/central areas of the Midlands. Originally a single-division competition, a second division was added in 1987: Division One, and in 2007 a third was added when Division One split into two geographic sections - Division One North and Division One South. In 2018 Division One was re-aligned as East and West Divisions, then North West and South East in 2019.

Successful teams at the top of the NPL Premier Division are promoted to level 6 of the pyramid (either National League North or National League South), and at the bottom end of the competition, teams are relegated down to level 9, where several regional feeder leagues promote clubs into the league.


The Northern Premier League (NPL) was founded in 1968, as the northern equivalent of the Southern League, decades after the other two leagues at what is now the seventh tier of the English football league system, the Isthmian League and the Southern League. At that time they were the highest level non-League division below the English Football League, the same level as the other league in Northern England, the Northern League.[1]

Over the next two decades, the NPL successfully displaced its older rival to become the pre-eminent regional competition in Northern England, with the Northern League eventually forced to accept status as feeder league to the NPL. In 1979, upon the creation of the Alliance Premier League (which later became the Conference and is now the National League), the NPL became a feeder league and fell down one level in the English football league system, and with the then-Conference's addition of regional divisions in 2004 the NPL was demoted by a further tier and there are now two levels between it and the English Football League.

From 1992–93 to 1994–95 the league's Division One included two non-English clubs, Caernarfon Town from Wales and Gretna from Scotland, who have later joined their countries' league systems. Colwyn Bay, Bangor City, Newtown, and Rhyl have also played in the league.

In 2018, the NPL's member clubs voted 37–27, with one abstention and three clubs' absence, to split Step 4 (level 8) divisions from east to west starting from the 2018–19 season,[2] and in 2019, the league published its successful bid to add another division at Step 4 in 2020, further altering Division One into northwest and southeast for travel reasons.[3][4]

  • 1968–69 to 1986–87: Premier Division
  • 1987–88 to 2006–07: Premier Division, Division One
  • 2007–08 to 2017–18: Premier Division, Division One North, Division One South
  • 2018–19: Premier Division, Division One East, Division One West
  • 2019–20: Premier Division, Division One North West, Division One South East
  • 2020–21 onwards: Premier Division, Division One North West, Division One South East, Unnamed Division One


Due to title sponsorship deals, the league has been billed under various names, including a sixteen-year spell as the Unibond League, the longest such deal in world football.[5] When this deal ended in 2010, a new deal was announced which saw the competition billed as the Evo-Stik League[6][7][8] until the 2017–18 season.[9] The League announced on 8 July 2019 that a two-year deal for seasons 2019-20 and 2020-21 had been agreed with new sponsor BetVictor.[10]


Since 2019, the NPL has had three divisions: the Premier Division, Division One North West and Division One South East. Prior to 2007 there was just a single Division One,[1] and prior to 2018 Division One was arranged on an north-south, then east-west basis.

The Premier Division has 22 clubs, with the champions promoted to the National League along with the winners of a playoff between the second to fifth place clubs. Theoretically, clubs from the NPL could be promoted into either of the National League's two regional divisions, however, the geographical footprint of the NPL has never overlapped with that of the National League South, therefore (as of 2015) all promoted NPL clubs have been placed in the National League North. The bottom three teams are usually relegated to Division One North West or South East, however NPL Premier Division clubs in the most southerly locales could be placed in the Southern League Division One Central in the event of relegation.

From the 2019–20 season, Division One North West and South East have 20 clubs each. In each division, the champions are promoted to the Premier Division, along with the winners of a divisional playoff. The bottom two clubs in each division are relegated to one of the feeder leagues below provided there are enough suitable promotion candidates from those leagues. The champions of the three feeder leagues covering the NPL area are promoted each season. These are the Northern League, the Northern Counties East League, and the North West Counties League. Clubs in the northern extremities of the Midland League and the United Counties League may also be promoted to the Northern Premier League.

Should there be an unusually large or small number of clubs relegated to and/or promoted to the level of the NPL from Northern England, the National League System (NLS) Committee can order one or more of the NPL's southernmost clubs to transfer to the Southern League (or vice versa) to maintain numerical balance between the leagues.

Division One North West and South East teams receive a bye to the Preliminary Round of FA Cup Qualification. Premier Division teams receive a bye to the First Round of Qualification.

The league currently runs one cup competition, with all member clubs competing in the League Challenge Cup. In the past, the league has run other competitions, such as the Chairman's Cup, the President's Cup and the Peter Swales Shield.

Current members



1968–69 Macclesfield Town
1969–70 Macclesfield Town
1970–71 Wigan Athletic
1971–72 Stafford Rangers
1972–73 Boston United
1973–74 Boston United
1974–75 Wigan Athletic
1975–76 Runcorn
1976–77 Boston United
1977–78 Boston United
1978–79 Mossley
1979–80 Mossley
1980–81 Runcorn
1981–82 Bangor City
1982–83 Gateshead
1983–84 Barrow
1984–85 Stafford Rangers
1985–86 Gateshead
1986–87 Macclesfield Town
Season Premier Division Division One
1987–88 Chorley Fleetwood Town
1988–89 Barrow Colne Dynamoes
1989–90 Colne Dynamoes Leek Town
1990–91 Witton Albion Whitley Bay
1991–92 Stalybridge Celtic Colwyn Bay
1992–93 Southport Bridlington Town
1993–94 Marine Guiseley
1994–95 Marine Blyth Spartans
1995–96 Bamber Bridge Lancaster City
1996–97 Leek Town Radcliffe Borough
1997–98 Barrow Whitby Town
1998–99 Altrincham Droylsden
1999–00 Leigh RMI Accrington Stanley
2000–01 Stalybridge Celtic Bradford Park Avenue
2001–02 Burton Albion Harrogate Town
2002–03 Accrington Stanley Alfreton Town
2003–04 Hucknall Town Hyde United
2004–05 Hyde United North Ferriby United
2005–06 Blyth Spartans Mossley
2006–07 Burscough Buxton
Season Premier Division Division One North Division One South
2007–08 Fleetwood Town Bradford Park Avenue Retford United
2008–09 Eastwood Town Durham City Retford United
2009–10 Guiseley FC Halifax Town Mickleover Sports
2010–11 FC Halifax Town Chester Barwell
2011–12 Chester AFC Fylde Grantham Town
2012–13 North Ferriby United Skelmersdale United King's Lynn Town
2013–14 Chorley Curzon Ashton Halesowen Town
2014–15 FC United of Manchester Salford City Mickleover Sports
2015–16 Darlington 1883 Warrington Town Stafford Rangers
2016–17 Blyth Spartans Lancaster City Shaw Lane
2017–18 Altrincham South Shields Basford United
Season Premier Division Division One East Division One West
2018–19 Farsley Celtic Morpeth Town Atherton Collieries

Since the league's formation in 1968, the following clubs have won promotion to higher levels of the English football league system -

Season Club Position Promoted to
1977–78Wigan Athletic2ndFootball League Division Four
Boston United
Stafford Rangers
Northwich Victoria
Bangor City
Alliance Premier League
Alliance Premier League
Alliance Premier League
Alliance Premier League
Alliance Premier League
Alliance Premier League
Alliance Premier League
1979–80Frickley Athletic3rdAlliance Premier League
1980–81Runcorn1stAlliance Premier League
1981–82Bangor City1stAlliance Premier League
1982–83Gateshead1stAlliance Premier League
1983–84Barrow1stAlliance Premier League
1983–84Stafford Rangers1stFootball Conference
1985–86Gateshead1stFootball Conference
1986–87Macclesfield Town1stFootball Conference
1987–88Chorley1stFootball Conference
1988–89Barrow1stFootball Conference
1989–90Gateshead2ndFootball Conference
1990–91Witton Albion1stFootball Conference
1991–92Stalybridge Celtic1stFootball Conference
1992–93Southport1stFootball Conference
1994–95Morecambe2ndFootball Conference
1996–97Leek Town1stFootball Conference
1997–98Barrow1stFootball Conference
1998–99Altrincham1stFootball Conference
1999–00Leigh RMI1stFootball Conference
2000–01Stalybridge Celtic1stFootball Conference
2001–02Burton Albion1stFootball Conference
2002–03Accrington Stanley1stFootball Conference
2003–04Hucknall Town
Alfreton Town
Harrogate Town
Worksop Town
Lancaster City
Vauxhall Motors
Gainsborough Trinity
Stalybridge Celtic
Ashton United
Bradford Park Avenue
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
2004–05Hyde United
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
2005–06Blyth Spartans
Farsley Celtic
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
AFC Telford United
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
2007–08Fleetwood Town
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
2008–09Eastwood Town
Ilkeston Town
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Boston United
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
2010–11FC Halifax Town
Colwyn Bay
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
Bradford Park Avenue
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
2012–13North Ferriby United
Hednesford Town
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
AFC Fylde
Football Conference North
Football Conference North
2014–15FC United of Manchester
Curzon Ashton
National League North
National League North
2015–16Darlington 1883
Salford City
National League North
National League North
2016–17Blyth Spartans
Spennymoor Town
National League North
National League North
Ashton United
National League North
National League North
2018–19Farsley Celtic1stNational League North

Asterisk indicates club was promoted via play-offs

Cup competitions

League Challenge Cup

The league currently runs one cup competition, the League Challenge Cup, which is contested by every club in the league.[11]


Season Winner Result Runner-up Venue Attendance
1968–69 Bangor City 5–2
Runcorn 1L:
1969–70 Altrincham 4–3
Macclesfield Town 1L:
2L: Moss Rose
1L: 4,400
2L: 6,833
1970–71 Fleetwood 1–1
1–0 (rep.)
Macclesfield Town 1L:
2L: Moss Rose
rep. Springfield Park
1L: 1,374
2L: 2,457
1971–72 Wigan Athletic 4–2
Gainsborough Trinity 1L:
1972–73 Northwich Victoria 3–2
Wigan Athletic 1L:
1973–74 Boston United 4–3
Altrincham 1L:
1974–75 Runcorn 2–1
Stafford Rangers 1L:
1975–76 Boston United 4–3
Mossley 1L: York Street
2L: Seel Park
1L: 2,212
2L: 711
1976–77 Scarborough 1–0 Runcorn Maine Road
1977–78 Matlock Town 3–0 Boston United Maine Road
1978–79 Mossley 4–1 Northwich Victoria Maine Road 5,054
1979–80 Runcorn 2–0 Lancaster City Maine Road
1980–81 Runcorn 4–3 Marine Maine Road
1981–82 Gainsborough Trinity 1–0 Mossley Maine Road 1,658
1982–83 Burton Albion 2–1 Macclesfield Town Maine Road 2,538
1983–84 South Liverpool 1–1 (wp) Hyde United Maine Road
1984–85 Marine 3–2 Goole Town Maine Road
1985–86 Hyde United 1–0 Marine Maine Road
1986–87 Macclesfield Town 2–0 Burton Albion Maine Road 2,037
1987–88 Goole Town 2–2 (wp) Barrow Maine Road 1,579
1988–89 Mossley 2–1 Fleetwood Maine Road 2,110
1989–90 Hyde United 1–0 Gateshead Maine Road
1990–91 Southport 4–1 Buxton Maine Road 1,700
1991–92 Marine 1–0 Frickley Athletic Maine Road
1992–93 Winsford United 1–1 (wp) Warrington Town Maine Road
1993–94 Spennymoor United 3–1 Hyde United Wetherby Road 585
1994–95 Bamber Bridge 2–1 Bishop Auckland Burnden Park
1995–96 Hyde United 1–1 (wp) Leek Town Burnden Park 501
1996–97 Gainsborough Trinity 1–0 Boston United Sincil Bank
1997–98 Altrincham 2–1 Gainsborough Trinity Saltergate
1998–99 Stalybridge Celtic 2–1 Guiseley
1999–00 Lancaster City 1–0 Worksop Town Bower Fold 669
2000–01 Lancaster City 2–2 (wp) Bishop Auckland Giant Axe 530
2001–02 Accrington Stanley 1–1(wp)
(0-1; 1-0; pens 5-4)
Bradford Park Avenue 1L: Horsfall Stadium
2L: Crown Ground
1L: 471
2L: 1,107
2002–03 Marine 3–0
Gateshead 1L: Filtrona Park
2L: Rossett Park
1L: 184
2L: 425
2003–04 Droylsden 4–1
Hucknall Town 1L: Butcher's Arms Ground
2L: Watnall Road
1L: 424
2L: 597
2004–05 Matlock Town 5–3
Whitby Town 1L: Causeway Lane
2L: Turnbull Ground
1L: 547
2L: 490
2005–06 Farsley Celtic 1–0 Stocksbridge Park Steels Throstle Nest 507
2006–07 Fleetwood 1–0 Matlock Town Wincham Park 426
2007–08 Eastwood Town 3–0 Skelmersdale United Tameside Stadium 372
2008–09 Guiseley 3–2 Ilkeston Town Tameside Stadium 227
2009–10 Boston United 2–0 Retford United Ashby Avenue 503
2010–11 Ashton United 1–0 Northwich Victoria Wincham Park 489
2011–12 North Ferriby United 4–1 Rushall Olympic Coronation Park 256
2012–13 North Ferriby United 1–1 (wp) Curzon Ashton Throstle Nest 179
2013–14 AFC Fylde 1–0 Skelmersdale United Edgeley Park 358
2014–15 Warrington Town 0–0 (wp) Farsley Edgeley Park 731
2015–16 Marine 2–1 Scarborough Athletic Throstle Nest 690
2016–17 Bamber Bridge 2–1 Grantham Town Harrison Park 474
2017–18 Atherton Collieries 2–1 Coalville Town North Street 374
2018–19 Trafford 2–1 Farsley Celtic Broadhurst Park 374

Defunct competitions

In the past the league has run three other cup competitions - the President's Cup, Chairman's Cup and Peter Swales Shield.[12]


Season President's Cup Chairman's Cup Peter Swales Shield
1970–71--Wigan Athletic
1971–72--Wigan Athletic
1972–73--Boston United
1973–74--Boston United
1974–75--Wigan Athletic
1975–76--Boston United
1976–77--Boston United
1977–78--Matlock Town
1981–82Buxton-Gainsborough Trinity
1982–83King's Lynn-Burton Albion
1984–85Rhyl-Stafford Rangers
1985–86Worksop Town-Gateshead
1986–87Macclesfield Town-Bangor City
1987–88South Liverpool-Chorley
1988–89Bangor City-Mossley
1989–90Fleetwood Town-Leek Town
1990–91Witton Albion-Witton Albion
1991–92Morecambe-Stalybridge Celtic
1992–93Winsford United-Southport
1994–95Lancaster City-Marine
1995–96Worksop Town-Hyde United
1996–97Blyth Spartans-Gainsborough Trinity
1999–00TraffordHyde UnitedLeigh RMI
2000–01Stalybridge CelticBarrowStalybridge Celtic
2001–02BarrowWorksop TownAccrington Stanley
2002–03Stalybridge CelticHucknall TownAccrington Stanley
2003–04BarrowHyde UnitedDroylsden
2004–05Bamber BridgeKidsgrove AthleticHyde United
2005–06Bradford Park AvenueBlyth SpartansBlyth Spartans
2007–08FC United of ManchesterRetford UnitedFleetwood Town
2008–09TraffordDurham CityEastwood Town
2009–10Belper TownMickleover SportsGuiseley
2010–11Lancaster City-FC Halifax Town
2012–13--Skelmersdale United
2013–14--Halesowen Town

See also


  1. "The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier History". The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier. Pitch Hero Ltd. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  2. "Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Vote For East/West Split". 9 March 2018.
  3. "NPL to expand with additional division at Step 4". The Evo-Stik League. Pitch Hero Ltd. 24 April 2019.
  4. "2019/20 Club Allocations Confirmed". The Evo-Stik League. Pitch Hero Ltd. 19 May 2019.
  5. Allcock, Alan (2 May 2010). "Evo-Stik New Sponsors From 2010–2011". The Evo-Stik League Website. Pitch Hero Ltd. Archived from the original on 8 March 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  6. Kirkbride, Philip (1 May 2010). "Northern Premier League secures new sponsor". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  7. Watters, David (18 May 2012). "Sponsor commits to three more years on night of national honours and celebration". The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier. Pitch Hero Ltd. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  8. Watters, David (22 December 2013). "Christmas comes early for League!". The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier. Pitch Hero Ltd. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  9. "Evo-Stik Continue Northern Premier League Backing". 17 June 2017.
  10. "New League sponsor". NPL. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  11. "CUP WINNERS CHALLENGE CUP". The UniBond League. Archived from the original on 23 July 2004. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  12. Snee, Tom (22 June 2011). "League Statement: President's Cup". The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier. Pitch Hero. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
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