With no Arsenal game this weekend and my promise of delving deeper into the lower leagues of English football I thought I’d start by including an overview of the whole structure. The English football league system is known as the football pyramid, bound together by promotion and relegation. Promotion can also be dependent on the club meeting certain criteria regarding its facilities and finances. The various levels of the pyramid are now as the tiers of English football, descending down from the premiership. Please note that the tier structure does not include the total amateur version of the game which is often referred to as Sunday league football, often without any promotion or relegation but with the opportunity for any club to join the football pyramid if they wish. Also, four Welsh teams play in the English league, Swansea & Cardiff in the league, Wrexham & Newport playing in the Conference. So with that little lot in mind here we go.
Tier 1; The Barclays Premiership, 20 teams the bottom three being relegated at the end of the season. The BPL is awash with money and finishing in the top four is the only way to gain entry into the Champions league which is in itself awash with even more money. Teams finishing 5th and below can gain entry into the Europa Cup, a sort of second tier champions league. Transfers are only conducted in the millions and so are players wages. I read somewhere that the BPL is the richest league in the world in terms of salaries, hence lots of the top foreign players are very eager to ‘ try their hand’ at playing in the Premier league.
Tier 2; Football League championship or N-Power Championship as it is currently known is where those three relegated teams play the following season. Comprising of 24 teams the top two are automatically promoted to the riches of the Premiership, some say promotion is worth as much as £15m. Teams finishing in the next four spots, third down to sixth, play-off for the final promotion place with the third placed team playing the sixth home and away, while the fourth and fifth do the same. The winners of each match then meet in a one off game at Wembley Stadium where the winners of that game are promoted. Clubs who finish in the bottom three are automatically relegated.
Tier 3; Football League One or the N-Power league One comprises 24 teams and promotion is exactly on the same lines as the Championship with the top two teams gaining automatic promotion, while the next four enter the play-off system. However in League One the bottom four clubs are all relegated.
Tier 4 Football League Two or the N-Power league Two, again comprises of 24 teams with the top three teams automatically promoted, the next four entering the play-off system. While only the bottom two clubs are relegated.
The above four tier’s were always considered to be the ‘professional’ end of the game but with the lack of money as you descend down it is left to individual clubs whether they wish to be full-time professional clubs or not. Being part-time does increase the risk of relegation and thereby depriving your club of money as normally any full-time outfit will always be fitter and thereby win matches against a part-time outfit. All clubs from all tiers of football are invited to take part in the FA Cup, there are many preliminary rounds long before you get to the first round where Tier 3 and 4 clubs enter and they have two rounds of their own before the big boys of tiers 1 and 2 enter in the 3rd round. Also these clubs are entered into Football league Cup, with the winners automatically gaining entry into the Europa Cup.
Tiers 3 and 4 are also entered into the football league trophy, known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. This is to give tier 3 and 4 teams the chance to earn extra revenue and the final is always played at Wembley, again to give players of those teams the opportunity to play at England’s national Stadium.
Next time we’ll look at tiers 5 to 8!