How the English Football Pyramid system works – step by step

The Madejski Stadium looking glorious. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com
The Madejski Stadium looking glorious. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

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The English Football Pyramid system is the structure of football divisions within the Football Associations’ remit and allows promotion and relegation from a County League right up to the Premier League.

It is known as the National League System (NLS), not to be confused with the National League which is a league within the NLS.

The system effectively covers at least 11 levels, more commonly referred to as ‘steps’ of which there are at least seven.

For example, the Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division North is at level 9 league but step 5 overall while the Thames Valley Premier League is a step 7 league.

Competitions like the East Berks Football League and Hellenic League Division Two divisions do not appear in this as they are not part of the pyramid system currently.

The pyramid system underwent a major adjustment in the summer of 2021 after a delay due to Covid-19 but now means the pyramid (NLS) structure follows a 1-2-4-8-16 formation of divisions.

Related: How to qualify for the FA Cup

The new divisions created in the summer included the Combined Counties League Premier Division North.

Currently, the system works as follows from the bottom to the top:

Level 1: FA Premier League

Level 2: EFL Championship

Level 3: EFL League One

Level 4: EFL League Two

Level 5, Step 1: National League

Level 6, Step 2: National League North, National League South

Looking for the Women’s Football Pyramid? That’s right here

Level 7, Step 3:

Northern Premier League Premier Division
Southern League Premier Division Central
Southern League Premier Division South
Isthmian League Premier Division

Level 8, Step 4: (All divisions run in parallel)

Northern Premier League Division One East
Northern Premier League Division One West
Northern Premier League Division One Midlands (NEW)
Southern League Division One Central
Southern League Division One South
Isthmian League Division One North
Isthmian League Division One South Central
Isthmian League Division One East

Related: How Non League football tranfers work

Level 9, Step 5: (All divisions run in parallel)

Combined Counties League Premier Division North (NEW)
Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Eastern Counties League Premier Division
Essex Senior League
Hellenic League Premier Division
Midland Football League Premier Division
North West Counties League Premier Division
Northern Counties East League Premier Division
Northern League Division One
Southern Combination Football League Premier Division
Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
United Counties League Premier Division North
United Counties League Premier Division South
Wessex League Premier Division
Western League Premier Division

Level 10, Step 6: (All divisions run in parallel)

Combined Counties League Division One
Eastern Counties League Division One North
Eastern Counties League Division One South
Hellenic League Division One
Midland Football League Division One
North West Counties League First Division North
North West Counties League First Division South
Northern Counties East League Division One
Northern League Division Two
South West Peninsula League Premier Division East
South West Peninsula League Premier Division West
Southern Combination Football League Division One
Southern Counties East League Division One
Spartan South Midlands League Division One
United Counties League Division One
Wessex League Division One
Western League Division One

Related: An explanation of ‘Dual Registrations’ in non league football

Level 11, Step 7: (All divisions run in parallel)

Anglian Combination Premier Division
Bedfordshire County Football League Premier Division
Cambridgeshire Football Association County League Premier Division
Central Midlands League North Division
Central Midlands League South Division
Cheshire Football League Premier Division
Dorset Premier League
Essex and Suffolk Border League Premier Division
Essex Olympian League Premier Division
Gloucestershire County League
Hampshire Premier League Senior Division
Hertfordshire Senior County League Premier Division
Humber Premier League Premier Division
Kent County League Premier Division
Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division
Lincolnshire League
Liverpool County Premier League Premier Division
Manchester League Premier Division
Middlesex County Football League Premier Division
Midland Football League Division Two
Northamptonshire Combination Football League Premier Division
Northern Football Alliance Premier Division
Nottinghamshire Senior League Senior Division
Oxfordshire Senior League Premier Division
Peterborough and District Football League Premier Division
Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior Football League Premier Division
Somerset County League Premier Division
South West Peninsula League Division One East
South West Peninsula League Division One West
Southern Combination Football League Division Two
Spartan South Midlands League Division Two
Staffordshire County Senior League Premier Division
Suffolk and Ipswich League Senior Division
Surrey Elite Intermediate Football League Intermediate Division
North Riding Football League Premier Division
Thames Valley Premier Football League Premier Division
Wearside League
West Cheshire League Division One
West Lancashire Football League Premier Division
West Midlands (Regional) League Division One
West Riding County Amateur League Premier Division
West Yorkshire League Premier Division
Wiltshire League Premier Division
York League Premier Division

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