Since 2007, the NPL has had three divisions: the Premier Division, Division One North and Division One South. Prior to 2007 there was just a single Division One.
The Premier Division has 22 clubs, with the champions promoted to Conference North along with the winners of a playoff between the second to fifth place clubs. The bottom four teams are relegated to Division One North or South, or possibly to the Southern League Division One Midlands, depending on their location.
From the 2009–10 season, Division One North and South have 22 clubs each. In each division, the champions are promoted to the Premier Division, along with the winners of a playoff between the second to fifth place clubs. The bottom two clubs in each division are relegated to one of the feeder leagues below provided there are enough suitable promotion candidates from those leagues. The champions of the three feeder leagues covering the NPL area are promoted each season. These are the Northern League, the Northern Counties East League, and the North West Counties League. Clubs in the northern extremities of the Midland Alliance and the United Counties League may also be promoted to the Northern Premier League.
Should there be an unusually large or small number of clubs relegated to and/or promoted to the level of the NPL from Northern England, the National League System (NLS) Committee can order one or more of the NPL's southernmost clubs to transfer to the Southern League (or vice versa) to maintain numerical balance between the leagues.
Division One North and South teams receive a bye to the Preliminary Round of FA Cup Qualification. Premier Division teams receive a bye to the First Round of Qualification.
The league has two knockout competitions. All clubs in the three leagues play in the Challenge Cup with the clubs in the Premier Division given byes to the third round, where they join eleven teams from the lower divisions. In previous seasons, the other two cup competitions, the Chairman's Cup and the President's Cup have been 'plate' competitions, for clubs losing in the early rounds of the Challenge Cup. From the 2007–08 season onwards, however, the President’s Cup is competed for by all the First Division clubs, while the Chairman’s Cup is contested between the two First Division Champion clubs. The winners of the Chairman's Cup then go on to play the Premier Division champions in the Peter Swales Shield.
Read more about this topic: Northern Premier League
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