The Conference was formed from teams in the Northern Premier and Southern leagues in 1979 and was originally known as the 'Alliance Premier League'. Now formally the "Conference League", it has been publicly known by the names of a succession of official title sponsors. During the 1984/85 and 1985/86 seasons the league was sponsored by the sportswear manufacturer Gola and was known as the "Gola League". From the 1986/87 season through to the 1997/98 season the Conference was sponsored by the motor manufacturer GM Vauxhall and was known as the "GM Vauxhall Conference". Since the 1998/99 season it has been sponsored by the Nationwide Building Society and is known as the "Nationwide Conference". The term Football Conference is sometimes used to encompass all of these former names.
At the end of the season one team each from the Ryman Isthmian League, the Dr Martens Southern League, and the UniBond Northern Premier League are promoted to the Conference and three teams are relegated from the Conference, one to each of the aforementioned lower leagues. Two teams are promoted from the Conference to the third division of the Football League and two teams from the third division are relegated to the Conference. Assuming that teams meet the conditions of the Football League, the Conference champions, aswell as the winners of a four team play-off are awarded the two promotion places. However, it is believed that the Conference will not allow teams into the play-offs if they are in financial administration.
From the 2004/05 season it is intended to establish two divisions, Conference North and Conference South, that will each have 22 teams and become the new sixth tier of the football pyramid, displacing the three feeder leagues down one level.The Isthmian League has filed a lawsuit to block this reorganization. Below that there shall be three regional leagues, and below that shall be another four regional leagues.
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2 Former Conference teams now in the Football League
3 Other former Conference teams
4 External links
Nationwide Conference Teams - 2003/04 season
Former Conference teams now in the Football League
Other former Conference teams
Most of these teams now play in lower leagues, however some teams no longer exist. Some have transferred from the English football pyramid to the Welsh pyramid (see League of Wales).