Vanarama National League
Country England.png England
Founded 1979
(as Alliance Premier League)
Number of teams 24
Promotion to League Two
Relegation to National League North
National League South
Levels on pyramid 5
Step 1 (National League System)
Domestic cup(s) FA Cup
FA Trophy
FA Challenger Shield
International cup(s) Europa League
(via FA Cup)
Current champions Barrow (2019–20)
Most successful club Barnet and Macclesfield Town (3 titles)
TV BT Sport
Website Official website
Football current event 2020–21

The National League, formerly the Conference National (currently named the Vanarama National League for sponsorship reasons), is the top division of the National League in England. It is the highest level of the National League System and fifth-highest of the overall English football league system. While all of the clubs in the top four tiers of English football are full-time professional, the National League has a mixture of full-time and semi-professional clubs. The National League is the lowest nationwide division in the English football pyramid. Beginning with the 2015–16 season, the league was renamed as the National League.


The league was formed as the Alliance Premier League in 1979, coming into force for the 1979–80 season. It was the first attempt to create a fully national league underneath the Football League since the Football Alliance was absorbed as Football League Second Division in 1892, drawing its clubs from the Northern Premier League and the Southern League. It greatly improved the quality of football at this lower level, as well as improving the financial status of the top clubs. This was reflected in 1986–87, when the Football League began accepting direct promotion and relegation between the GM Vauxhall Conference (which the league had been rebranded for sponsorship purposes by then) and the bottom division of the Football League which at that time was known as the Football League Fourth Division and is now Football League Two. The first team to be promoted by this method was Scarborough and the first team relegated was Lincoln City, who regained their Football League status a year later as GM Vauxhall Conference champions.

Since 2002–03, the league has been granted a second promotion place, with a play-off deciding who joins the champions in the Football League. Previously, no promotion from the Conference would occur if the winners did not have adequate stadium facilities. As of the start of the 2002–03 season, if a club achieves the automatic promotion or the play-off places but does not have an adequate stadium, their place will be re-allocated to the next highest placed club that has the required facilities. In 2004–05, the Conference increased its size by adding two lower divisions, the Conference North and Conference South respectively, with the original division being renamed Conference National. For the 2006–07 season, the Conference National expanded from 22 to 24 teams by promoting four teams while relegating two teams and introduced a "four up and four down" system between itself and the Conference North and Conference South.

The league's first sponsors were Gola, who sponsored it during the 1984–85 and 1985–86 seasons. When Gola's sponsorship ceased, carmaker Vauxhall Motors — the British subsidiary of American combine General Motors — took over and sponsored the league until the end of the 1997–98 season. The 1998–99 Conference campaign began without sponsors for the Conference, but just before the end of the season a sponsorship was agreed with Nationwide Building Society. This lasted until the end of the 2006–07 season, after which Blue Square took over. This would also prompt their renaming leagues with the Conference National becoming the Blue Square Premier, the Conference North becoming Blue Square North and the Conference South becoming Blue Square South. In April 2010, Blue Square announced a further three-year sponsorship deal. From the start of the 2010–11 season the divisions were renamed, with the addition of the word "Bet" after "Blue Square".

In July 2013 the Conference agreed a sponsorship deal with online payment firm Skrill. This lasted for only one year and the following July the Conference announced a brand-new three-year deal with Vanarama. In 2015, The Football Conference was renamed the National League. The top division was also officially renamed the National League and the lower divisions renamed as National League North and National League South. Because of the ongoing sponsorship, the three divisions are now currently known as the Vanarama National League, Vanarama League North and Vanarama League South.

Media coverage

In August 2006 Setanta Sports signed a five-year deal with the Conference. Under the deal, Setanta Sports started showing live matches in the 2007–08 season, with 79 live matches each season. Included in the deal were the annual Play Off matches as well as the Conference League Cup, a cup competition for the three Football Conference divisions. Setanta showed two live matches a week, with one on Thursday evening and one at the weekend. In Australia the Conference National was broadcast by Setanta Sports Australia. Setanta Sports suffered financial problems and ceased broadcasting in the United Kingdom on 23 June 2009. Sky Sports broadcast the Conference Play-off final 2010 at Wembley Stadium.

On 19 August 2010, Premier Sports announced that it had bought the live and exclusive UK television rights to thirty matches per season from the Conference Premier for a total of three seasons. The thirty matches selected for broadcast will include all five Conference Premier play-offs. The deal with the Football Conference is a revenue sharing arrangement whereby clubs receive 50% of revenue from subscriptions, on top of the normal rights fee paid by the broadcaster, once the costs of production have been met. The Conference will also earn 50% from all internet revenue associated with the deal and allow them to retain advertising rights allied to those adverts shown with their matches. During the 2010–11 season, Premier Sports failed to attract enough viewers to its Conference football broadcasts to share any revenue with the clubs beyond the £5,000 broadcast fee paid to home clubs and £1,000 to away clubs. In July 2013, BT Sport announced a two-year deal to broadcast 30 live games per season including all 5 playoff matches. The National League announced it has a renewed three-year deal with BT Sport, and in addition, it launched its own channel called NLTV that will focus on all 68 member clubs across the three divisions.

Clubs 2018–19

The following 24 clubs competed in the National League during the 2018–19 season.

Club Finishing position last season Location Stadium Capacity
Aldershot Town &0000000000000005.0000005th Aldershot Recreation Ground 7,200
Barnet &0000000000000001.00000023rd in League Two (relegated) London (Edgware) The Hive Stadium 6,418
Barrow &0000000000000020.00000020th Barrow-in-Furness Holker Street 5,045
Boreham Wood &0000000000000004.0000004th Borehamwood Meadow Park 4,502
Braintree Town &0000000000000024.0000006th in National League South (promoted via play-offs) Braintree Cressing Road 4,085
Bromley &0000000000000009.0000009th London (Bromley) Hayes Lane 5,300
Chesterfield &0000000000000002.00000024th in League Two (relegated) Chesterfield Proact Stadium 10,504
Dagenham & Redbridge &0000000000000011.00000011th London (Dagenham) Victoria Road 6,078
Dover Athletic &0000000000000008.0000008th Dover Crabble Athletic Ground 5,745
Eastleigh &0000000000000014.00000014th Eastleigh Ten Acres 5,250
Ebbsfleet United &0000000000000006.0000006th Northfleet Stonebridge Road 4,500
Fylde &0000000000000007.0000007th Wesham Mill Farm 6,000
Gateshead &0000000000000017.00000017th Gateshead Gateshead International Stadium 11,800
Halifax Town &0000000000000016.00000016th Halifax The Shay 14,061
Harrogate Town &0000000000000023.0000002nd in National League North (promoted via play-offs) Harrogate Wetherby Road 3,800
Hartlepool United &0000000000000015.00000015th Hartlepool Victoria Park 7,856
Havant & Waterlooville &0000000000000022.0000001st in National League South (promoted) Havant West Leigh Park 5,300
Leyton Orient &0000000000000013.00000013th London (Leyton) Brisbane Road 9,271
Maidenhead United &0000000000000012.00000012th Maidenhead York Road 3,377
Maidstone United &0000000000000019.00000019th Maidstone Gallagher Stadium 4,200
Salford City &0000000000000021.0000001st in National League North (promoted) Salford Moor Lane 5,108
Solihull Moors &0000000000000018.00000018th Solihull Damson Park 3,050
Sutton United &0000000000000003.0000003rd London (Sutton) Gander Green Lane 5,013
Wrexham &0000000000000010.00000010th Wrexham Racecourse Ground 10,771

Past winners

Numbers in parentheses indicate wins up to that date.

Season Winner Playoff Winner
1980–81Altrincham1 (2)
1983–84Maidstone United1
1985–86Enfield1 (2)
1987–88Lincoln City
1988–89Maidstone United (2)
1991–92Colchester United
1992–93Wycombe Wanderers
1993–94Kidderminster Harriers2
1994–95Macclesfield Town2
1995–96Stevenage Borough2
1996–97Macclesfield Town (2)
1997–98Halifax Town
1998–99Cheltenham Town
1999–00Kidderminster Harriers (2)
2000–01Rushden & Diamonds
2001–02Boston United3
2002–03Yeovil TownDoncaster Rovers
2003–04Chester CityShrewsbury Town
2004–05Barnet (2)Carlisle United
2005–06Accrington StanleyHereford United
2006–07Dagenham & RedbridgeMorecambe
2007–08Aldershot TownExeter City
2008–09Burton AlbionTorquay United
2009–10Stevenage Borough (2)Oxford United
2010–11Crawley TownAFC Wimbledon
2011–12Fleetwood TownYork City
2012–13Mansfield TownNewport County
2013–14Luton TownCambridge United
2014–15Barnet (3)Bristol Rovers
2015-16Cheltenham Town (2) Grimsby Town F.C.
2016–17Lincoln City (2) Forest Green Rovers
2017–18Macclesfield Town (3) Tranmere Rovers
  • ^1No promotion to the Football League until 1987.
  • ^2No promotion to the Football League due to club's stadium not being adequate for the Football League.
  • ^3Boston United were allowed to retain their championship title and subsequent promotion to the Football League despite having been found guilty of serious financial misconduct during their title winning season. Following their later relegation back from the Football League at the end of the 2006–07 season, due to ongoing financial concerns and irregularities at the club, Boston were relegated a further division and placed in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League.

Play-off results

Season First Semi-final (5th vs 2nd) Second Semi-final (4th vs 3rd) Final Final Venue
2016–17 Aldershot Town 0–3 Tranmere Rovers

Tranmere Rovers 2–2 Aldershot Town

Tranmere Rovers won 5–3 on aggregate

Dagenham & Redbridge 1–1 Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers 2–0 Dagenham & Redbridge

Forest Green Rovers won 3–1 on aggregate

Tranmere Rovers 1–3 Forest Green Rovers

(Match Report)

Wembley Stadium, London
2015–16 Dover Athletic 0–1 Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers 1–1 Dover Athletic

Forest Green Rovers won 2–1 on aggregate

Grimsby Town 0–1 Braintree Town

Braintree Town 0–2 Grimsby Town

Grimsby Town won 2–1 on aggregate

Forest Green Rovers 1–3 Grimsby Town

(Match Report)

2014–15 Forest Green Rovers 0–1 Bristol Rovers

Bristol Rovers 2–0 Forest Green Rovers

Bristol Rovers won 3–0 on aggregate

Eastleigh 1–2 Grimsby Town

Grimsby Town 3–0 Eastleigh

Grimsby Town won 5–1 on aggregate

Bristol Rovers 1–1 Grimsby Town
Bristol Rovers won 5–3 on penalties
(Match Report)
2013–14 FC Halifax Town 1–0 Cambridge United

Cambridge United 2–0 FC Halifax Town

Cambridge United won 2–1 on aggregate

Grimsby Town 1–1 Gateshead

Gateshead 3–1 Grimsby Town

Gateshead won 4–2 on aggregate

Cambridge United 2–1 Gateshead

(Match Report)

2012–13 Wrexham 2–1 Kidderminster Harriers

Kidderminster Harriers 1–3 Wrexham

Wrexham won 5–2 on aggregate

Grimsby Town 0–1 Newport County

Newport County 1–0 Grimsby Town

Newport County won 2–0 on aggregate

Wrexham 0–2 Newport County

(Match Report)

2011–12 Luton Town 2–0 Wrexham

Wrexham 2–1 Luton Town

Luton Town won 3–2 on aggregate

York City 1–1 Mansfield Town

Mansfield Town 0–1 York City

York City won 2–1 on aggregate

Luton Town 1–2 York City

(Match Report)

2010–11 Fleetwood Town 0–2 AFC Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon 6–1 Fleetwood Town

AFC Wimbledon won 8–1 on aggregate

Wrexham 0–3 Luton Town

Luton Town 2–1 Wrexham

Luton Town won 5–1 on aggregate

AFC Wimbledon 0–0 Luton Town
AFC Wimbledon won 4–3 on penalties
(Match Report)
City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester
2009–10 Luton Town 0–1 York City

York City 1–0 Luton Town

York City won 2–0 on aggregate

Oxford United 2–0 Rushden & Diamonds

Rushden & Diamonds 1–1 Oxford United

Oxford United won 3–1 on aggregate

Oxford United 3–1 York City

(Match Report)

Wembley Stadium, London
2008–09 Stevenage Borough 3–1 Cambridge United

Cambridge United 3–0 Stevenage Borough

Cambridge United won 4–3 on aggregate

Torquay United 2–0 Histon

Histon 1–0 Torquay United

Torquay United won 2–1 on aggregate

Cambridge United 0–2 Torquay United

(Match Report)

2007–08 Burton Albion 2–2 Cambridge United

Cambridge United 2–1 Burton Albion

Cambridge United won 4–3 on aggregate

Exeter City 1–2 Torquay United

Torquay United 1–4 Exeter City

Exeter City won 5–3 on aggregate

Cambridge United 0–1 Exeter City

(Match Report)

2006–07 Exeter City 0–1 Oxford United

Oxford United 1–2 Exeter City
2–2 draw on aggregate

Exeter won 4–3 on penalties

York City 0–0 Morecambe

Morecambe 2–1 York City

Morecambe won 2–1 on aggregate

Morecambe 2–1 Exeter City

(Match Report)

2005–06 Halifax Town 3–2 Grays Athletic

Grays Athletic 2–2 Halifax Town

Halifax Town won 5–4 on aggregate

Morecambe 1–1 Hereford United

Hereford United 3–2 Morecambe

Hereford United won 4–3 on aggregate

Hereford United 3–2 Halifax Town
after extra time
(Match Report)
Walkers Stadium, Leicester
2004–05 Aldershot Town 1–0 Carlisle United

Carlisle United 2–1 Aldershot Town
2–2 draw on aggregate

Carlisle won 5–4 on penalties

Stevenage Borough 1–1 Hereford United

Hereford United 0–1 Stevenage Borough

Stevenage Borough won 2–1 on aggregate

Carlisle United 1–0 Stevenage Borough

(Match Report)

Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
2003–04 Aldershot Town 1–1 Hereford United

Hereford United 0–0 Aldershot Town
1–1 draw on aggregate

Aldershot won 4–2 on penalties

Barnet 2–1 Shrewsbury Town

Shrewsbury Town 1–0 Barnet
2–2 draw on aggregate

Shrewsbury won 5–3 on penalties

Aldershot Town 1–1 Shrewsbury Town
Shrewsbury won 3–0 on penalties
(Match Report)
2002–03 Dagenham & Redbridge 2–1 Morecambe

Morecambe 2–1 Dagenham & Redbridge
2–2 draw on aggregate

Dagenham won 3–2 on penalties

Doncaster Rovers 1–1 Chester City

Chester City 1–1 Doncaster Rovers
2–2 draw on aggregate

Doncaster won 4–3 on penalties

Doncaster Rovers 3–2 Dagenham & Redbridge
Doncaster won with a golden goal
(Match Report)


External links

National League (division) seasons

1979-80 · 1980-81 · 1981-82 · 1982-83 · 1983-84 · 1984-85 · 1985-86 · 1986-87 · 1987-88 · 1988-89 · 1989-90 · 1990-91 · 1991-92 · 1992-93 · 1993-94 · 1994-95 · 1995-96 · 1996-97 · 1997-98 · 1998-99 · 1999-00 · 2000-01 · 2001-02 · 2002-03 · 2003-04 · 2004-05 · 2005-06 · 2006-07 · 2007-08 · 2008-09 · 2009-10 · 2010-11 · 2011-12 · 2012-13 · 2013-14 · 2014-15 · 2015-16 · 2016-17 · 2017-18 · 2018-19 · 2019-20 · 2020-21 ·

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