UniBond League (Northern Premier League)

Founded: 1968

In 1968 the leading semi-professional clubs joined together to form the Northern Premier League to improve standards and allow a stronger case to be put forward when applying for Football League membership. The idea for a top class league in the North, similar to the Southern League, had been mooted for several years. In 1966 a steering commitee was set up at which over 200 clubs were represented from the six top leagues, and from them 20 clubs were chosen to form the new League. Membership was restricted to professional clubs only and it was agreed that each year the champions of the Cheshire County League, Lancashire Combination and Midland League would replace the bottom three clubs.

Founder Members

Altrincham, Bangor City, Hyde United, Macclesfield Town, Northwich Victoria, Runcorn, Wigan Athletic from the Cheshire League, Chorley, Fleetwood, Morecambe, Netherfield, South Liverpool from the Lancashire Combination, Gainsborough Trinity, Goole Town, Scarborough, Worksop Town from the Midland League, Ashington, Gateshead*, South Shields from the North Regional League, Boston United from the West Midlands (Regional) League.
* The former Football League club, not the current Unibond League club.

Area Covered

The Unibond League covers the North of the country, the boundary with the Dr. Marten's League is roughly between Stoke and Stafford in the West and Boston and King's Lynn in the East.


2 divisions, 45 clubs
Premier Division (23 clubs)
Division One (22 clubs)

Until 1987 the league consisted of a single division and membership varied from 22 to 24 clubs depending on the availability of new clubs to replace the occasional defunct member. A secondary division was formed in 1987 amidst much acrimony from the three feeder leagues who lost several of their top teams. Originally 2 clubs moved between the divisions each season. From 2002 a third promotion place became available which was to be contested between the 3rd bottom club in the Premier Division and the 3rd to 5th placed clubs in the First Division. Promotion or participation in the play-offs is subject to ground grading critieria.

Premier Division

Promotion: 1 club to the Football Conference (subject to meeting the Conference's entry criteria)

Relegation: 3 clubs to Division One

Composition 2002-03

Accrington Stanley, Altrincham, Ashton United, Barrow, Blyth Spartans, Bradford Park Avenue, Burscough, Colwyn Bay, Droylsden, Frickley Athletic, Gainsborough Trinity, Gateshead, Harrogate Town, Hucknall Town, Hyde United, Lancaster City, Marine, Runcorn Halton, Stalybridge Celtic, Vauxhall Motors, Wakefield Emley, Whitby Town, Worksop Town.


Relegated from Football Conference: Stalybridge Celtic
Promoted from Division One: Harrogate Town, Ashton United (play-off winners) (runners-up Ossett Town failed to meet the ground grading criteria by 24 hours)


Promoted to Football Conference: Burton Albion
Relegated to Division One: Bishop Auckland (failed ground grading criteria), Bamber Bridge (play-off losers) (second bottom Hyde United escaped relegation due to the failure of other teams to meet ground grading requirements)

Name Changes

Emley to Wakefield Emley
Runcorn to Runcorn Halton

Recent Champions

2002 Burton Albion
2001 Stalybridge Celtic
2000 Leigh RMI
1999 Altrincham
1998 Barrow
1997 Leek Town
1996 Bamber Bridge
1995 Marine
1994 Marine
1993 Southport

Full list of Champions 1969-2002

Division One

Promotion: 3 clubs to the Premier Division

Relegation: 3 clubs to feeder leagues: North West Counties League, Northern Counties (East) League, Albany Northern League.

Composition 2002-03

Alfreton Town, Bamber Bridge, Belper Town, Bishop Auckland, Chorley, Eastwood Town, Farsley Celtic, Guiseley, Kendal Town, Kidsgrove Athletic, Leek Town, Lincoln United, Matlock Town, North Ferriby United, Ossett Town, Radcliffe Borough, Rossendale United, Spennymoor United, Stocksbridge Park Steels, Trafford, Witton Albion, Workington


Relegated from Premier Division: Bishop Auckland, Bamber Bridge
Promoted from North West Counties League: Kidsgrove Athletic
Promoted from Northern Counties (East) League: Alfreton Town
No Albany Northern League club applied for promotion.


Promoted to Premier Division: Harrogate Town, Ashton United
Relegated to Northern Counties (East) League: Osset Albion
Elected to Bell's Scottish League Division Three: Gretna
Second bottom Kendal Town were saved from relegation to the North West Counties League by the election of Gretna to the Scottish League.

Recent Champions

2002 Harrogate Town
2001 Bradford Park Avenue
2000 Accrington Stanley
1999 Droylsden
1998 Whitby Town
1997 Radcliffe Borough
1996 Lancaster City
1995 Blyth Spartans
1994 Guiseley
1993 Bridlington Town

Full list of Champions 1988-2002



North West Counties | Northern Counties (East) | Albany Northern

About this document

Prepared and maintained by James M. Ross

Author: James M. Ross
Last updated: 22 Nov 2002

Copyright © 1997,2002 James M. Ross
You are free to use the data within this document in whole or part for non-commercial use providing that proper acknowledgement is given to the author. Copying of the document itself or replication on any other web site is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.