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While the pyramid format of the English football leagues makes perfect sense to the English men and women who fervently support their favorite teams, it can be a challenge for people from other parts of the world or people new to league football to understand. Itâ€™s a complicated system thatâ€™s been around for a long time, but worry not! We are here with a football pyramid guide to help explain things so that before you know it, youâ€™ll be cheering your new favorite team on with the rest of the world.
The Pyramid System
Letâ€™s take a look at what the Pyramid system is and how it actually works. The football pyramid is a series of interconnected leagues; all of the menâ€™s clubs in England, five teams from Wales, one team from Guernsey, one team from Jersey, and one team from the Isle of Man. The system works in a hierarchy and has promotions and relegations between different leagues at different levels in the grand scheme. Theoretically, this system allows even the smallest club the opportunity to make it to the very top. All in all, there are more than a hundred and forty leagues within the system, and it contains more than four hundred and eighty divisions. The exact number of clubs involved varies every year, as clubs come and go. Still, at any given time, there are an average of about fifteen clubs per division, which means that there are over seven thousand teams formed from almost seven thousand clubs in the system.Â
A Closer Look
This complex and intricate system is held together by the principles of promotion and relegation. The most successful clubs rise to higher leagues, while those clubs who donâ€™t fare so well may find themselves sinking down by a level come the end of the season. Sporting performance is not the only way the teams are asked to meet criteria; these may also involve facilities and finances. In theory, though it rarely happens in practice, a local, amateur club may achieve promotions that allow them to rise, over the course of a few years, to the pinnacle of the pyramid.
The top five tiers feature only one division each, and these are played out on a nationwide scope. As the levels descend, they feature more and more parallel leagues, each of which covers a smaller area. As the levels go further down, the existence of leagues becomes less common, depending on the population level of the area. There are, of course, many leagues in different parts of the country that donâ€™t have formal agreements with the system. Clubs from these leagues may apply to join if they meet the requirements. The six levels below the premier and English Football Leagues fall under the jurisdiction of the Football Association, as we mentioned before. While there were plans to create a new division, back in 2014, the plans were scrapped altogether.
Now we are really getting to the tricky bit, so pay attention! The top division, the Premier League (level one or top-flight), contains twenty clubs, almost all of which are based in England. Directly below the Premier League sits the English Football League (formerly known as the Football League), which has three divisions and twenty-four clubs per division. These are The Championship (level two), League One (level three) and League Two (level four).
The top-level of non-league football is called the National League. This is level five and consists of twenty-four clubs, and is the lowest level that has one single nationwide league. This, like the levels above it, is a full-time professional division, but some clubs do retain a part-time status. Level six has two divisions (the National League and the National League South) which have twenty-two clubs each; some professional and some semi-professional. Below the National League sit the four regional leagues, each of which is linked to different areas with a little overlap. These are the Northern Premier League, Southern Football League Central, Southern Football League South and the Isthmian League. Each of these has divisions of twenty-two leagues. Beneath these sit both of the parallel divisions of the Southern Football Leagues: twenty teams each. The ninth and final level contains all the top divisions of the fourteen sub-regional leagues, each of which has a different divisional setup.
Hopefully, now you understand a little bit more about the English football system and the leagues within it. Best of luck with the upcoming football season!