Nationwide Conference

Founded: 1979

The Alliance Premier League was formed in 1979 as a national semi-professional championship. Its formation was partly motivated by the desire to increase the chances of a non-league club gaining election to the Football League. The APL members agreed that only one club from the league (normally the champions) would be nominated for election to the Football League. Up until 1979 the leading semi-professional clubs outside the Football League played in the Southern League and Northern Premier League. Each year a number of ambitious clubs from these leagues would apply for membership of the Football League. The prospective members could usually count on a reasonable level of support, but as the votes would be spread amongst them it was unusual for one team to garner enough votes to gain election (although 4 new members had been elected to the Football League in the previous 10 years). By agreeing that only one club would seek election, the APL member clubs hoped that that club would gain election more often than not. However, apart from Altrincham in 1980 who failed by a single vote, no APL club came close to gaining election. After lengthy negotiations with the league an agreement was reached in 1986 under which the APL champions would replace the bottom club of the Football League from 1987 onwards providing that they met the League's entry criteria.

In 1992, former Conference champions Maidstone United ran into financial difficulties and resigned from the League on the eve of the new season. The League reacted by tightening their entry criteria and inisited that prospective members must meet them by December 31st prior to any application. As a result no club was promoted from 1993 to 1996. The 1996 Conference champions, Stevenage Borough, took legal action after being denied promotion and although the action was unsuccessful the League have since relaxed their time limit to April 30th. In 1996-97 the leading three championship contenders, who had each won the championship and been denied promotion in the previous three years, all met the promotion criteria and champions Macclesfield Town took their place in the Nationwide League in 1997-98. They were followed in 1998 by Halifax Town who became the fourth team to regain their league status, five years after losing it to Wycombe Wanderers.

At the end of the 1997-98 season the league terminated their long association with sponsors Vauxhall. The league was intially unsponsored for the 1998-99 season and was known simply as The Football Conference, with the intention of increasing public awareness of the league's name. Midway through the season a new sponsorship deal was signed and the competition became the Nationwide Conference.

At the 1998 AGM, it was decided to form a second division to operate from the 1999-2000 season subject to FA approval. This would have involved relegating only one club at the end of the 1998-99 season to be replaced by the winners of a play-off between the three feeder leagues. However the plan was blocked by the FA and the Conference continued to operate as a single division.

In March 2000 the Football League agreed in principle to increase promotion and relegation with The Conference to two clubs per season. After prolonged negotiations over parachute payments for relegated clubs the increase was finally implemented for season 2002-03. The second promotion place is decided by a play-off between the 2nd to 5th place Conference teams. Participation in the play-offs will be subject to clubs meeting the entry requirements for the Football League. A plan to increase the size of the Conference by two clubs for season 2003-04 was blocked by the FA, however agreement was reached b

Founder Members

From Northern Premier League: Altrincham, Bangor City, Barrow, Boston United, Northwich Victoria, Scarborough, Stafford Rangers.

From Southern League: AP Leamington, Barnet, Bath City, Gravesend & Northfleet, Kettering Town, Maidstone United, Nuneaton Borough, Redditch United, Telford United, Wealdstone, Weymouth, Worcester City, Yeovil Town.


1 division of 22 clubs.

The league originally consisted of 20 clubs. Initially three clubs was relegated at the end of the season and replaced by the champions of the Northern Premier League and of each of the two divisions of the Southern League. Membership was increased to 22 in 1980 when Dagenham and Enfield of the Isthmian League were invited to join. From 1982 one of the promotion place previously allocated to the Southern League was given to the Isthmian League. The league had indicated in recent years that it would like to expand to 24 clubs, or form a second division but the FA will not sanction either plan.

Promotion: 2 club to the Nationwide League (subject to meeting the League's entry criteria)

Relegation: 3 clubs to feeder leagues: UniBond League, Dr Martens League and Ryman League

Composition 2003-04

Accrington Stanley, Aldershot Town, Barnet, Burton Albion, Exeter City or Swansea City, Farnborough Town, Forest Green Rovers, Gravesend & Northfleet, Halifax Town, Hereford United, Leigh RMI, Margate, Northwich Victoria, Scarborough, Southport, Shrewsbury Town, Stevenage Borough, Tamworth, Telford United, three from Chester City, Dagenham & Redbridge, Doncaster Rovers and Morecambe


Relegated from Nationwide League: Exeter City or Swansea City, Shrewsbury Town
Promoted from Unibond League: Accrington Stanley
Promoted from Dr. Martens League: Tamworth
Promoted from Ryman League: Aldershot Town


Promoted to Nationwide League: Yeovil Town, Morecambe/Chester City/Doncaster Rovers/Dagenham & Redbridge

Relegated to Unibond League: Southport
Relegated to Dr. Marten's League: Nuneaton Borough, Kettering Town

Recent Champions

2002 Yeovil Town
2002 Boston United
2001 Rushden & Diamonds
2000 Kidderminster Harriers
1999 Cheltenham Town
1998 Halifax Town
1997 Macclesfield Town
1996 Stevenage Borough
1995 Macclesfield Town
1994 Kidderminster Harriers

Full list of champions


Nationwide League

UniBond League | Dr Martens League | Ryman League

About this document

Prepared and maintained by James M. Ross Last updated: 29 Apr 2003

Copyright © 1997,2003 James M. Ross
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