A Guide to The Vanarama National League

The Vanarama National League is home to England’s best non-league football sides and the occasional Welsh club. From the Premier League, Championship, League One and through to League Two, the top 92 professional clubs nationwide receive a great deal of attention, and non-league football, in turn, hasn’t received the spotlight it may so deserve over the years.

If you’re unfamiliar with non-league football in England, this guide provides an overview of The National League, which may be a great place to start broadening your knowledge.

What is The Vanarama National League?

The National League is the fifth tier of the English football league system and the highest level of the National League system. It is also known as Step 1 on the football pyramid, a division below League Two of the English Football League.

Football fans may know the division by its previous titles, such as The Nationwide Conference or The Blue Square Bet Premier, due to its past sponsorship deals. Vehicle leasing company Vanarama is the naming rights partner and main sponsor of the division alongside subdivisions – The National League North and The National League South – which are the sixth tier of English football and also known as Step 2.

The National League plays a vital role in the landscape of English football, providing opportunities for clubs and players to ascend the football pyramid and achieve greater success while maintaining deep roots in their local communities. They often have strong ties to their close surroundings, providing a humble sense of pride. At the same time, many clubs in the league also invest in youth academies and development programs to contribute to the broader footballing ecosystem in the UK.

How Does The Vanarama National League Work?

A total of 24 teams compete in The National League, with fixtures occurring twice, at the club’s respective home grounds and away too (23 at home and 23 away), seeing 46 games be played as the season operates from August to May.

Two teams are promoted into EFL League Two, the fourth tier of English football, while four sides are relegated to either The National League North or The National League South depending on their geographical placement. The champions are automatically promoted to League Two, and teams placed second to seventh qualify for the play-offs for their right to claim the second promotion position.

Second and third-placed sides automatically qualify for the semi-final stage of the play-offs, while fourth to seventh-placed teams compete against each other in the quarter-final stage. The quarter-finals winners will compete in the semi-finals against second and third place, then the play-off final follows, where the winner will be promoted to League Two alongside the champions of the division.


The league was founded in 1979 as the Alliance Premier League and was later renamed The Football Conference before becoming The National League. Over the years, the league has seen many clubs rise through to achieve success in higher areas of English football.


Take Luton Town, AFC Wimbledon and Fleetwood Town as examples; they have used the league as a springboard to reach higher divisions, with The Hatters most recently competing in the top-flight until suffering relegation last season, failing to solidify their position above the drop zone towards the back end of the 2023/24 campaign.

Which Teams Compete in The Vanarama National League?

The National League is a crucial gateway for semi-professional clubs aiming to become fully professional and enter the EFL. However, it must be noted that most clubs which compete in the division operate on a professional model as competitiveness and finances grow within the league. A mix of former football league clubs and ambitious non-league teams make up the ranks.

Here is a list of every club in The National League ahead of the 2024/25 season:

  • AFC Fylde
  • Aldershot Town
  • Altrincham
  • Barnet
  • Boston United
  • Braintree Town
  • Dagenham & Redbridge
  • Eastleigh
  • Ebbsfleet United
  • FC Halifax Town
  • Forest Green Rovers
  • Gateshead
  • Hartlepool United
  • Maidenhead United
  • Oldham Athletic
  • Rochdale
  • Solihull Moors
  • Southend United
  • Sutton United
  • Tamworth
  • Wealdstone
  • Woking
  • Yeovil Town
  • York City

Regarding past pedigree and status, Oldham Athletic is widely considered the most ‘famous’ side in The National League. The Latics were founder members of The Premier League since the division kickstarted in 1992, but subsequently hold the title now as the first former top-flight side to have been relegated to The National League in that timespan ranging to the present day as they suffered relegation from League Two in 2022.

Each team within the league enters both The FA Trophy and The FA Cup. A highlight from the 2023/24 campaign involved Maidstone United’s inspiring run in The FA Cup, who advanced to the fifth round of the oldest national football competition in the world. They overcame EFL sides like Barrow and Stevenage, as well as newly promoted Premier League outfit Ipswich Town, before losing out to Coventry City.

Notable Players to Rise Through the Ranks

The National League and non-league divisions further down the pyramid provide a pivotal environment for players to grow and evolve. Some household names have all stemmed from plying their trade at non-league. Think of Jamie Vardy, Chris Smalling, Ashley Williams, David Raya, Tyrone Mings, Jimmy Bullard and Ian Wright; they have all worked up from grassroots levels to forge a successful playing career.


Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu is a particular standout; he spectacularly claims the accolade of being the only player ever to represent a single side, his club, Luton Town, from non-league all the way through to the Premier League – playing a key role in each division and campaign towards their rise to the top.

The Vanarama National League and Sports Betting

With the league growing in popularity and entertainment for fans of their beloved teams competing and neutral spectators too, alongside a wider range of media coverage as TNT operates as the official broadcaster, sportsbooks tend to offer a whole range of betting options for enthusiasts. Tools such as a matched betting calculator could be utilised to take advantage of any promotional offers and arbitrage opportunities. A dynamic landscape of non-league football remains marginally undiscovered by the average football fan, primarily immersed within the Premier League or high-profile clubs abroad. However, strategies could be leveraged to broaden horizons and enhance knowledge of the beautiful game from a grassroots perspective.