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Conference National (currently named the Blue Square Premier for sponsorship reasons) is the top division of the Football Conference. 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 Conference National has a mixture of full-time and semi-professional clubs. The Conference National is the lowest nationwide division in the English football pyramid.


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, 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 Conference (which the league had been renamed 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 Conference champions.

The league's first sponsors were Gola, who sponsored it during the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons. When Gola's sponsorship ceased, carmaker Vauxhallmarker - the Britishmarker subsidiary of Americanmarker 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 current sponsors Blue Square took over.

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. For the 2006-07 season, the Conference expanded from 22 to 24 teams by relegating two teams and promoting four teams, and also introduced a "four up and four down" system between the Conference National and the Conference North and Conference South.

In April 2007, it was announced all the Football Conference had agreed a three year sponsorship deal with online betting firm Blue Square. Under the deal, all three Conference leagues would be sponsored by Blue Square from the 2007-08 season. This would also lead to a renaming of the 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.

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 June 23, 2009.

Conference National clubs, 2009-10

Finishing position last season
AFC Wimbledon 1st in Conference South
Altrincham 15th
Barrow 20th
Cambridge United 2nd
Chester City 23rd in League Two
Crawley Town 9th
Eastbourne Borough 13th
Ebbsfleet Unitedmarker 14th
Forest Green Rovers 18th
Gateshead 2nd in Conference North
Grays Athletic 19th
Hayes & Yeading United 4th in Conference South
Histon 3rd
Kettering Town 8th
Kidderminster Harriers 6th
Luton Town 24th in League Two
Mansfield Town 12th
Oxford United 7th
Rushden & Diamonds 11th
Salisbury City 16th
Stevenage Borough 5th
Tamworth 1st in Conference North
Wrexham 10th
York City 17th

Past Conference National winners

Season Winner Playoff Winner
1979-80 Altrincham1
1980-81 Altrincham1
1981-82 Runcorn1
1982-83 Enfield1
1983-84 Maidstone Unitedmarker1
1984-85 Wealdstone1
1985-86 Enfield1
1986-87 Scarborough
1987-88 Lincoln City
1988-89 Maidstone Unitedmarker
1989-90 Darlington
1990-91 Barnet
1991-92 Colchester United
1992-93 Wycombe Wanderers
1993-94 Kidderminster Harriers2
1994-95 Macclesfield Town2
1995-96 Stevenage Borough2
1996-97 Macclesfield Town
1997-98 Halifax Town
1998-99 Cheltenham Town
1999-00 Kidderminster Harriers
2000-01 Rushden & Diamonds
2001-02 Boston United3
2002-03 Yeovil Town Doncaster Rovers
2003-04 Chester City Shrewsbury Town
2004-05 Barnet Carlisle United
2005-06 Accrington Stanley Hereford United
2006-07 Dagenham & Redbridge Morecambe
2007-08 Aldershot Town Exeter City
2008-09 Burton Albion Torquay United

1No promotion to the Football League until 1988

2Not promoted due to stadium not being adequate for the Football League

3Boston United allowed to retain 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, due to ongoing financial concerns and irregularities at the club, Boston United were passed straight back through the Conference National and placed into Conference North.

Conference National Play-Off Results

Season First Semifinal (2nd vs 5th) Second Semifinal (3rd vs 4th) Final
2002-03 Dagenham & Redbridge 2-1 Morecambe

Morecambe 2-1 Dagenham & Redbridge
Dagenham won 3-2 on penalties
Doncaster Rovers 1-1 Chester City

Chester City 1-1 Doncaster Rovers
Doncaster won 4-3 on penalties
Doncaster Rovers 3-2 Dagenham & Redbridge
Doncaster won with a golden goal
(Match Report)

2003-04 Aldershot Town 1-1 Hereford United

Hereford United 0-0 Aldershot Town
Aldershot won 4-2 on penalties
Barnet 2-1 Shrewsbury TownShrewsbury Town 1-0 Barnet
Shrewsbury won 5-3 on penalties
Aldershot Town 1-1 Shrewsbury Town
Shrewsbury won 3-0 on penalties
(Match Report)

2004-05 Aldershot Town 1-0 Carlisle United

Carlisle United 2-1 Aldershot Town
Carlisle won 5-4 on penalties
Stevenage Borough 1-1 Hereford UnitedHereford United 0-1 Stevenage Borough Carlisle United 1-0 Stevenage Borough

(Match Report)
2005-06 Halifax Town 3-2 Grays Athletic

Grays Athletic 2-2 Halifax Town
Morecambe 1-1 Hereford United

Hereford United 3-2 Morecambe
Hereford United 3-2 Halifax Town
after extra time
(Match Report)

2006-07 Exeter City 0-1 Oxford United

Oxford United 1-2 Exeter City
Exeter won 4-3 on penalties
York City 0-0 MorecambeMorecambe 2-1 York City Morecambe 2-1 Exeter City

(Match Report)
2007-08 Burton Albion 2-2 Cambridge United

Cambridge United 2-1 Burton Albion

Exeter City 1-2 Torquay United

Torquay United 1-4 Exeter City
Cambridge United 0-1 Exeter City

(Match Report)
2008-09 Stevenage Borough 3-1 Cambridge United

Cambridge United 3-0 Stevenage Borough

Torquay United 2-0 Histon

Histon 1-0 Torquay United

Cambridge United 0-2 Torquay United

(Match Report)

Conference National stadia 2009-10

Home Club Stadium Name Capacity
Wrexham Racecourse Groundmarker 15,500
Oxford United Kassam Stadiummarker 12,500
Gateshead Gateshead International Stadiummarker 11,800
Luton Town Kenilworth Roadmarker 10,226
Mansfield Town Field Millmarker 10,000
Cambridge United Abbey Stadiummarker 9,617
York City KitKat Crescentmarker 9,196
Stevenage Borough Broadhall Waymarker 7,100
Hayes & Yeading United Church Roadmarker 6,500
Rushden & Diamonds Nene Parkmarker 6,441
Kidderminster Harriers Aggboroughmarker 6,238
Kettering Town Rockingham Roadmarker 6,170
Altrincham Moss Lanemarker 6,085
Chester City Deva Stadiummarker 5,328
Forest Green Rovers The New Lawnmarker 5,147
Ebbsfleet Unitedmarker Stonebridge Roadmarker 5,011
Crawley Town Broadfield Stadiummarker 4,996
AFC Wimbledon Kingsmeadowmarker 4,720
Barrow Holker Streetmarker 4,256
Eastbourne Borough Priory Lanemarker 4,134
Grays Athletic New Recreation Groundmarker 4,100
Tamworth The Lamb Groundmarker 4,000
Histon Bridge Roadmarker 3,800
Salisbury City Raymond McEnhill Stadiummarker 3,500




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