England Football Levels Explained: Football Pyramid Guide

Did you know that England has a tier system for its football leagues? Whether you’re a die-hard football fan or just starting to learn about the sport, understanding the different levels of football in England can be fascinating. From the prestigious Premier League to the local grassroots leagues, each level offers its own unique challenges and opportunities for aspiring players and teams.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the England football levels and explore the structure of the football league system. We’ll examine the top tiers, such as the Premier League and the Championship, and the lower divisions, like League One and League Two. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the different levels of football in England and how they contribute to the overall football landscape in the country.

So, whether you’re curious about the highest level of professional football in England or want to learn more about the local leagues that form the backbone of the sport, keep reading to discover the fascinating world of England football levels.

England Football Structure

The structure of professional football in England is largely based around the English Premier League, which stands as the top division in the country. It currently has twenty clubs participating at this level, all of which are full-time professional teams. The English Football League (EFL) is at the next tier down, which used to be called ‘The Football League’.

This consists of two more divisions containing a total of seventy-two clubs, all of which are also professional and utterly dedicated to football. These three tiers form part of the whole structure; before 1992, when the Premier League was founded, there were four divisions with ninety-two teams total.

The major draw for fans about these various divisions is that they allow teams to move up or down based on their performance each season. Promotion from one division to another allows greater exposure, improved infrastructure, and increased revenues for a team, so great efforts are made by all teams to secure either a place in the upper echelons or avoid relegation into a lower tier. As well as this, players may often wish to make moves across league levels to further their careers – often seeking higher wages or greater challenges.

England football levels

Level 1: Premier League The Premier League is the top tier of English football and comprises 20 teams. It’s one of the world’s most popular and lucrative football leagues. The league operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the EFL Championship.

Level 2: EFL Championship The EFL Championship is the second-highest division in the English football pyramid. It consists of 24 teams and is known for its competitive nature. The top two teams are automatically promoted to the Premier League, while teams finishing from 3rd to 6th place compete in the playoffs for the third promotion spot.

Level 3: EFL League One EFL League One is the third tier of English football and comprises 24 teams. Like the Championship, promotion and relegation occur, with the top two teams earning automatic promotion to the Championship. The teams finishing in 3rd to 6th place compete in the playoffs for the third promotion spot.

Level 4: EFL League Two EFL League Two is the fourth tier and contains 24 teams. As with the other leagues, the top three teams are promoted, with the 4th to 7th placed teams competing in the playoffs for the fourth promotion spot.

Level 5 and below: Non-League Football Beyond League Two, the football pyramid expands into various non-league divisions. This includes the National League (Level 5) and then further divisions like National League North and National League South (Level 6). The non-league pyramid continues to extend through various regional and local divisions.

Promotion and Relegation Promotion and relegation are central to the English football pyramid’s structure. The concept is that the best-performing teams in each division are promoted to the division above, while the poorest-performing teams are relegated to the division below. This creates a dynamic system where teams can rise through the levels based on their performance.

It’s important to note that there are many leagues and divisions within each level, especially in the non-league system, which consists of numerous regional divisions. The promotion and relegation process can also differ slightly between different leagues and levels. I recommend checking official sources like the English Football League (EFL) and the Football Association (FA) for the most current and accurate information about the English football pyramid.

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Promotion and relegation rules for the top eight levels

The top eight levels of football in England feature an intricate and detailed system of promotion and relegation rules to ensure that the best teams are well-positioned to continue their success. The Premier League is England’s highest division and comprises 20 teams, with the bottom three teams relegated at the end of each season.

There are then 24 clubs in both the English Football League Championship and English Football League One, with two automatic promotion spots available for each level and a four-team play-off that can result in another club earning a promotion spot. Following this, English Football League Two has 24 clubs, with three automatically promoted, while there is one additional play-off spot.

Overall, these complex promotion and relegation rules help to create an exciting league structure where clubs battle it out to achieve unprecedented heights or fight valiantly against potential relegation.

These rules also help to maintain an appropriate balance between players, coaches, and stakeholders who manage clubs at all levels, as every team has something on the line throughout their campaign. They encourage competition within divisions, which encourages improvement from all sides in a desire for success through promotion or safeguarding against relegation.

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The team formatting for each level in the English football pyramid:

LevelLeagueNumber of TeamsPromotion Slots to Higher LevelRelegation Slots to Lower Level
Level 1Premier League20Top 2None (Bottom 3-4 may face relegation)
Level 2EFL Championship24Top 2Bottom 3
Level 3EFL League One24Top 2Bottom 4
Level 4EFL League Two24Top 3Bottom 2 + Relegation Playoff Spots
Level 5National LeagueVariesPromotion Playoff WinnersRelegation to Lower Divisions
Level 6National League NorthVariesPromotion Playoff WinnersRelegation to Lower Divisions
Level 6National League SouthVariesPromotion Playoff WinnersRelegation to Lower Divisions

Please note that the exact number of promotion and relegation slots can vary slightly from season to season and can be affected by factors such as league expansions or changes in competition rules. The lower levels of the non-league system (below Level 6) also consist of numerous regional divisions, each with its own promotion and relegation structure. Always refer to official sources for the most up-to-date information.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ 1: How many levels are there in English football?

Answer: There are 11 levels in the English football pyramid system.

FAQ 2: What is the highest level of football in England?

Answer: The highest level of football in England is the Premier League, considered one of the strongest professional leagues in the world.

FAQ 3: What is non-league football?

Answer: Non-league football refers to all football clubs and leagues outside English football’s top four divisions. It includes semi-professional and amateur clubs.

FAQ 4: How do promotion and relegation work between the different levels?

Answer: Promotion and relegation between the levels in English football is based on a hierarchical format. The top teams in each league have the opportunity to move up to the higher level, while teams at the bottom of the table may be relegated to a lower level.

FAQ 5: Can non-league football clubs play against professional clubs?

Answer: Yes, non-League football clubs can compete against professional clubs in various competitions, such as the FA Cup or League Cup. These tournaments provide an opportunity for non-League clubs to test their abilities against stronger opponents.


The English football levels consist of 11 hierarchical divisions, with the Premier League being the highest level. Non-League football includes clubs and leagues outside the top four divisions. Promotion and relegation occur between levels, allowing teams to move up or down. Non-League clubs can also participate in competitions against professional clubs.

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