UK Football Leagues

UK Football League Structure

Many people consider English (UK) football the “best in the world.  With its’ magnificent footballing structure, huge media influence and outstanding system of youth player’s evolution, it has earned its place of prestige. 

Both mens and women’s football is overseen by The Football Association, the body that governs football in England.  The FA oversees the regulation of on-field matters, it organizes the FA Cup competition and it regulates competition rule books, including those for the Premier league. 

Interestingly, the President of the Football Association is Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

Like most European countries, UK football is a hybrid of numerous domestic leagues. The teams within different divisions compete for the biggest prizes. Furthermore, they also try to protect themselves from getting demoted.


The English top-flight is known as the Barclays Premier League. The best 20 English sides compete for the most significant domestic prize in the UK. The top four sides of the division are eligible for next season’s UEFA Champions League, a continental competition where the top teams compete to become Champions of Europe.

The fifth and the sixth-placed team is eligible for the UEFA Europa League. If a team wins the FA Cup or the League Cup, they can also qualify for the UEFA Europa League regardless of their position on the Premier League table. 

The bottom three sides get demoted to the first division. The first division gets called the Championship. Below the Championship, we have League One and League Two divisions. At Level 5, we have the National League. It consists of 23 English football teams, one less than the Leagues above them. Therefore, there are 92 teams across four English football divisions.

In the Championship, there are three promotions (to the Barclays Premier League) and three demotions (to League One). There are four demotions in League One and two demotions in League Two. Furthermore, there are four promotions in League Two.


There are only two tiers of women’s football in the UK.  

The top tier was established just over ten years ago in 2010 and is overseen by the Football Association.  It is the Barclays FA Women’s Super League or FA WSL.

The second tier is the FA WSL 2.  It is also known as the Women’s Championship League.

The Women’s national league is made up of regional teams.

Women’s football in the UK, like the mens, operates on the system of promotion and relegation.


In 1978, an EU meeting was held to address the futue of foreign players within the UK. The parties agreed that the foreign players should be able to showcase their footballing ability regardless of their country and heritage. As a result, we began to see a number of foreign talents becoming successful in the UK.

Teams with both national and foreign players may prove to be stronger, but there can definitely be a learning curve involved when they are combined.

The foreign players sometimes find it difficult to overcome both the language barrier and the weather. When Cristiano Ronaldo got signed by Manchester United in 2003, he initially kept a translator alongside him.  He took lessons, and has obviously learned the language.

Obviously National Players have an advantage because they are familiar with the idiosyncrasies of their surroundings. They are often considered press favorites.


UK football has some very well known academies such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Southampton. 

In order to be eligible for this, a player must be at least 13 yrs of age, with a CGPA of more than 2.5.  Players sign Academy contracts.  These are not to be confused with Club contracts.  You can read about the difference between the two here.

UEFA oversee their instruction.  Enrollments and study is also incorporated in various sporting colleges/universities.

These academies offer carefully structured schedules during which the players do do fitness training, tactical training, massage, etc. Their quantity of eating also may be overseen by the management. With today’s innovative technology, the management teams can also easily discuss tactics via video analysis resulting in superior training and feedback.

Click here for a list of pay to play soccer academies in Europe.