History of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

The Northern Premier Football League was formed in 1968 and has since enjoyed a record of producing a high quality competition and infrastructure for its level within the National Game.

“The Evo-Stik League” has an excellent long-standing reputation within the football community and has, through its paid and voluntary officers, ensured that the traditional high standards have been maintained.

Former Northern Premier League clubs to have progressed to the Football League since the NPL’s formation in 1968 are Wigan Athletic, Scarborough, Macclesfield Town, Boston United, Accrington Stanley with the latest being Fleetwood Town who in May 2014 reached the third tier of the English game. Wigan, of course, have gone on to even greater things achieving Premiership status and appearing in the 2006 Carling Cup Final before winning the FA Cup in 2013. Another recent member of the NPL, Gretna, achieved back to back promotions in the Scottish League and also appeared in the 2006 Scottish FA Cup Final prior to their sad demise.

The League has always had a tradition of causing FA Cup upsets going back virtually to its formation and in the second season South Shields knocked out not one but two Football League clubs in Bradford Park Avenue, who were in their last season in the big time, and Oldham Athletic – the latter over two games. The following year Boston United accounted for 4th Division Southport whilst Wigan Athletic beat Peterborough United to earn a crack at Manchester City where they lost 1-0.

Some bigger ties saw Altrincham hold Everton away, Altrincham do similar at White Hart Lane against the mighty Spurs and Northwich Victoria reach the 4th Round in 1976/7. In more recent times Wakefield (then under the name of Emley) were holding a star studded West Ham United side until eight minutes from time and in 2010 Curzon Ashton and Eastwood Town beat Exeter City and Wycombe Wanderers both of whom went on to gain automatic promotion to League One.

The Northern Premier League dominated the early years of the FA Trophy through the inaugural winners Macclesfield Town in 1970, Stafford Rangers (1972, 1979), Scarborough (1973, 1976, 1977), Morecambe (1974), Matlock Town (1975) and Altrincham (1978) whilst in 2003 village side Burscough brought off the mother of all shocks by winning the coveted silverware.

From its formation in 1968 with just twenty clubs the competition has more than tripled in numbers and has three Divisions having added a second tier in 1987 and a third section two seasons ago.

In the past five seasons the League has been very actively involved in driving the FA’s Respect Programme and its efforts were rewarded by the League winning the FA’s Respect and Fair Play Awards for competitions at Steps 1-4 of the National League System in four of the first five years of the Awards existence whilst Garforth Town, Lancaster City, AFC Fylde, Nantwich Town and Skelmersdale United between them have won the FA’s national club award for Respect during the same period giving the League a remarkable 100% success rate in the club section. The driving force behind this success, former League Secretary Phil Bradley, had his hard work recognised when he was presented with the coveted Bobby Moore Individual Award for Respect and Fair Play by Bobby Moore’s widow Stephanie Moore along with FA Chairman David Bernstein and former England International Jimmy Armfield at the 2012 FA Cup Final. Given those statistics it can safely be said that the Northern Premier League is very much at the forefront of the FA’s Respect Programme.

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