One of the most extensive systems in the world that covers virtually every blade of grass in the country, the English football pyramid standouts for a variety of reasons.
The English football league pyramid is a series of interconnected leagues that function in a hierarchical system with promotion and relegation taking place across every division.
The jeopardy that’s associated with promotion and relegation is an important aspect of this league system, which makes for entertaining viewing for the neutral if not the fans.
Since there are several leagues in a complicated tier system for football in England, let’s take a deep dive into how things function with regard to the English football pyramid.
English football pyramid and how it works
Top tier: Premier League
Previously known as the First Division, English football’s top flight was rechristened as the Premier League in 1992 and has since gone on to become the most watched and entertaining league in the world. Twenty teams compete in the Premier League, playing home and away over the course of a 38-game season and the top side at the end of the campaign wins the title while the bottom three teams are relegated to second division. Twenty times English champions Manchester United have the most Premier League (13) triumphs.
Second tier: English Football League Championship
In the second division of English football, as many as 24 teams feature in the Championship. All sides play each other home and away once in what’s a 46-game regular campaign for the teams. At the end of the season, the top two teams earn automatic promotion to the Premier League while teams that finish from third to sixth compete in the playoffs for the remaining promotion spot. The bottom three sides at the end of the season are relegated to the third division.
Third tier: League One
Like the Championship, League One has 24 teams battling it out over the course of a 46-game regular season. The top two teams gain automatic promotion to the Championship at the end of the campaign while clubs that finish third to sixth square off in the playoffs for the remaining promotion spot. Unlike the Championship which sees the bottom three clubs relegated, the four teams at the foot of the table at the end of the season drop down to the fourth tier of English football.
Fourth tier: League Two
Similar to the Championship and League One, League Two also has 24 sides competing home and away over the course of a 46-match season. However unlike the Championship and League One, the top three teams with the most points earn automatic promotion while the next four sides compete in the playoffs for the remaining promotion spot. The bottom two teams in League Two are relegated at the end of the season.
Fifth tier: National League
The fifth tier in England, the National League is fed by the rest of the teams in English football. It is the last tier before the professional leagues and the winners of this league are automatically promoted to League Two while the next six teams compete for the other promotion spot via the playoffs. The bottom four teams in the National League at the end of the season are relegated to either the North or South divisions.
Sixth tier: National League North and South
In the National League North and South, the teams are split into north or south on the basis of the club’s geographical location. As many as 44 teams are a part of this league and both north and south comprise 22 teams each. The winners of each division in north and south are promoted to the fifth tier, the National League automatically while the next six teams from both divisions compete for the other promotion spot in the playoffs.
The bottom four teams in each division are relegated at the end of the season. If the teams in both these divisions are not equal due to promotion and relegations, clubs will be transferred between the two divisions on the basis of a team's location until we arrive at an even number.
Seventh tier: Northern and Southern Premier Division, Southern Premier Central, and Isthmian League
Tier seven in the English football pyramid sees four leagues running parallelly. These four divisions are the Northern Premier League Division, Southern Football League Premier Central, Southern Football League Premier South, and Isthmian League Premier Division. Each of these leagues has 22 teams battling it out to become champions and earn automatic promotion.
The next four teams after the champions square off in the playoffs for the other promotion spot available in each of the leagues. The bottom four sides from each division are relegated to level eight of English football. Like tier six of English football, tier seven also adopts a transferring approach as per the club’s geography should an unequal distribution occur.
Tier eight and below
Tier eight follows the same principle as tier seven but across seven leagues instead of four. Here, the champions are promoted automatically while the next four clubs compete in the playoffs with the five best playoff winners going by points per game being promoted. The bottom two teams are relegated to tier nine of English football.
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