Conference National - History

History

The league was formed as the Alliance Premier League in 1979, coming into force for the 1979–80 season. It was the first attempt to create a fully national league underneath the Football League, drawing its clubs from the Northern Premier League and the Southern League. It greatly improved the quality of football at this lower level, as well as improving the financial status of the top clubs. This was reflected in 1986–87, when the Football League began accepting direct promotion and relegation between the Conference (which the league had been renamed by then) and the bottom division of the Football League which at that time was known as the Football League Fourth Division and is now Football League Two. The first team to be promoted by this method was Scarborough and the first team relegated was Lincoln City, who regained their Football League status a year later as Conference champions.

The league's first sponsors were Gola, who sponsored it during the 1984–85 and 1985–86 seasons. When Gola's sponsorship ceased, carmaker Vauxhall Motors — the British subsidiary of American combine General Motors — took over and sponsored the league until the end of the 1997–98 season. The 1998–99 Conference campaign began without sponsors for the Conference, but just before the end of the season a sponsorship was agreed with Nationwide Building Society. This lasted until the end of the 2006–07 season, after which current sponsors Blue Square took over.

Since 2002–03, the league has been granted a second promotion place, with a play-off deciding who joins the champions in the Football League. Previously, no promotion from the Conference would occur if the winners did not have adequate stadium facilities. As of the start of the 2002–03 season, if a club achieves the automatic promotion or the play-off places but does not have an adequate stadium, their place will be re-allocated to the next highest placed club, that has the required facilities. In 2004–05, the Conference increased its size by adding two lower divisions, the Conference North and Conference South respectively, with the original division being renamed Conference National. For the 2006–07 season, the Conference National expanded from 22 to 24 teams by promoting two teams and relegating four teams, and also introduced a "four up and four down" system between the Conference National and the Conference North and Conference South.

In April 2007, it was announced all the Football Conference had agreed a three-year sponsorship deal with online betting firm Blue Square. Under the deal, all three Conference leagues would be sponsored by Blue Square from the 2007–08 season. This would also lead to a renaming of the leagues with the Conference National becoming the Blue Square Premier, the Conference North becoming Blue Square North and the Conference South becoming Blue Square South.

In April 2010, it was announced that Blue Square would continue to sponsor the competition for another three years. From the start of the 2010/11 season the divisions were renamed, with the Blue Square Premier becoming the Blue Square BET Premier, the Blue Square North becoming the Blue Square BET North and the Blue Square South becoming the Blue Square BET South.

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