You did read the title correct. And what you are thinking is right too. There is no league 3, but should there be? What I am talking about is the Conference becoming League 3 and with it changes about how many teams gain promotion.
If you don’t know much about the Conference, it is the first division outside of the football league comprised of 24 teams. Only two teams can gain promotion into the football league, one by winning the league and one through the play-offs.
The biggest team to be relegated into the conference is Luton Town due to a 30 point deduction back in 2009 and have been favourites every year to win promotion back to the football league. However Luton Town are now competing in their fifth season in the Conference, and since their induction, eight teams have been promoted into the football league. Excluding last year’s Conference champions Mansfield Town and play-off winners Newport County, (as the season is still ongoing) none of the other six teams promoted to the football league have been relegated back to the conference, with both Crawley Town and Stevenage Borough going one better and gaining promotion to League One.
Going back further, prior to 2003 only one team from the conference could gain promotion to the football league, however for 2002 – 2003 season the rules were change to not only allow one automatic place but have a playoff place as well. Since the introduction of this rule, allowing two teams promotion into the football league, twenty-two teams have been promoted. Again excluding Mansfield Town and Newport County, the twenty teams that have had the opportunity to play at least one full season in the football league, have never been relegated back to the Conference in their first season. In fact only four teams out of the twenty have eventually been relegated back to the Conference. Yeovil and Doncaster, the first to teams to benefit from the rule changing about promotion, now compete in the Championship with a further four teams originally promoted from the Conference now playing in League One, showing how far non- league sides have come.
In comparison, looking at Championship teams promoted to the Premiership in the same time span since the Conference rule change, thirty teams from the Championship have been promoted to the Premier League and out of those thirty; twenty-three of them have eventually been relegated. With thirteen of them being relegated after just one season in the Premiership. As a percentage this reads as, only 20% of the Conference sides promoted to the football league are relegated back to the conference whereas over 75% of teams promoted to the Premiership are relegated. What this shows us is that teams promoted into the football league from the conference are better than some of the teams already in that division. Surely by increasing the amount of teams promoted from the Conference will then improve the standard of the football league based on the statistics. Should it then not be fairer and more competitive for the Conference to have more promotion places?
Relegation from the Conference results in being relegated to either the Conference North or Conference South. This is where a divide starts to appear in the league structure, with it the league not being a national league as such and being restricted to regional areas, with the majority of the teams playing in Conference North and South being semi-professional clubs whereas the majority of the teams competing in the Conference are professional. As the Conference is the last division that incorporates the whole county and being the last division with mainly professional clubs should it then not be League 3? The final league before it becomes ‘non-league football.’