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The Northern Premier League, known in recent years as the UniBond League under a title sponsorship contract, is one of the regional English football leagues which sits directly below the Football Conference. Geographically, the league covers all of Northern England, and the northern areas of the Midlandsmarker. Due to restructuring, from 2005 onwards its champions have been promoted to the Conference North division rather than the Conference National as was previously the case.


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 Football League, the same level as the other league in Northern England, the Northern League.

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, the NPL became a feeder league and fell down one level in the English football league system, and with the 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 Football League.

Current structure

Since 2007, the NPL has had three divisions: the Premier Division, Division One North and Division One South. Prior to 2007 there was just a single Division One.

The Premier Division has 22 clubs, with the champions promoted to Conference North along with the winners of a playoff between the second to fifth place clubs. The bottom four teams are relegated to Division One North or South, or possibly to the Southern League Division One Midlands, depending on their location.

From the 2008-09 season, Division One North and South have 20 clubs each, although this is expected to increase to 22 clubs each in the near future. In each division, the champions are promoted to the Premier Division, along with the winners of a playoff between the second to fifth place clubs. 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 Alliance and the United Counties League may also be promoted to the Northern Premier League.

Should there be an unusually large 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 to maintain numerical balance between the leagues. Conversely, should an unusually small number of clubs be relegated to and/or promoted from Northern England to the level of the NPL from Northern England then the northernmost clubs of the Southern League may by ordered to transfer to the NPL for the same reason.

The league has three knockout competitions. All clubs in the three leagues play in the League Challenge Cup with the clubs in the Premier Division given byes to the third round, where they join eleven teams from the lower divisions. In previous seasons, the other two cup competitions, the Chairman's Cup and the President's Cup have been 'plate' competitions, for clubs losing in the early rounds of the Challenge Cup. In 2007-08, however, the President’s Cup was competed for by all the First Division clubs, while the Chairman’s Cup was contested between the two First Division Champion clubs.

Previous winners

Season Premier Division
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
For the 1987-88 season, Division One was added.
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 Baymarker
1991-92 Stalybridge Celtic Colwyn Bay
1992-93 Southportmarker Bridlington Town
1993-94 Marine Guiseleymarker
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 Buxtonmarker
For the 2007-08 season, Division One was reorganised into North and South regions.
Season Premier Division Division One North Division One South
2007-08 Fleetwood Town Bradford Park Avenue Retford United (not promoted)
2008-09 Eastwood Townmarker Durham City Retford United


  1. Cammell Laird were promoted instead as Retford's ground did not meet the requirements of the higher division.

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