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How To Bet On The National League


Betting on English National League football can prove to very profitable for bettors who are prepared to do their research. While many bettors avoid betting on lower divisions, those willing to put in the time can and do make money betting on National League football. If you're new to betting on the National League, our detailed guide will enhance your chances of turning a profit this season.

Betting On The National League: An Introduction

The National League is the fifth division of English football, and the top division of the National League system. With the Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two being fully professional leagues, the National League contains a mixture of professional and semi-professional clubs. In this guide we will show you how to make the most of the National League betting markets and enhance your chances of making consistent profit and building your bankroll.

2018/19 National League Dates

The 2018/19 National League season begins 4th August 2018 and concludes 27th April 2019.


  1. How The National League Works
  2. History Of The National League
  3. National League Odds Explained
  4. National League Betting Strategies
  5. National League Bookmakers, Free Bets & Offers
  6. National League Live Streaming
  7. National League Betting Tips

1. How The National League Works

The National League contains 24 clubs, both full-time and semi-professional, who play each other twice per season, once at home and once away. At the top of the National League tree, this is the only division in the National League system that operates on a national basis. The two lower divisions, National League North and National League South, are regional divisions. The National League system umbrella then stretches out further, with nine more regional leagues that are above County leagues.

With the National League being the top division in this structure, it is the most popular division to bet on. With its promotion and relegation ties to League Two, there's interest from bettors from across the globe in betting on the National League.

National League Champions and Promotion

The team that finishes with the most points after 46 games finishes top of the division and are declared National League champions. With the title, the National League winners are also awarded the only automatic promotion spot into League Two.

The teams that finish in second and third earn a spot in the play-off semi finals. Those sides finishing in fourth to seventh get a place in the play-off qualifying round.

The two National League teams that gain promotion take the places of the bottom two League Two sides, who are relegated into the National League for the following season.

National League Relegation

There are four National League relegation places. The sides that finish in the bottom four are demoted to either the National League North or National League South divisions according to their geographical location. These four sides are replaced by the top two finishers of each the North and the South National Leagues.

2. History Of The National League

The National League was formed in 1979 and had the title of Alliance Premier Football League, with the best teams from the National League North (then known as the Northern Premier League) and the best teams from the National League South (Southern League) making up the list of founder teams in it's inaugural season. Over the last 37 years, the League has been known as eight different names due to the changes in sponsorship of the division, it's most famous title was the Football Conference. For sponsorship reasons, the National League is currently known as the Vanarama National League.

You may hear the term 'non-league' associated with the National League. This term comes from at time when the top four divisions were part of the Football League structure, with the divisions below them not part of the Football League, 'non-league' became a way to describe those divisions. It's a term still used now to describe the leagues below League Two, and whilst it's not theoretically correct you will come across it in your National League research.

Interest in National League is high after the emergence of some of its former players. Current England stars Joe Hart, Jamie Vardy and Chris Smalling have all played for teams in the National League and lower, and Welsh players Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor both started their careers playing in these lower tiers. Other players have also made the step up to the Premier League, mostly via Championship, League One and League Two clubs. The divide between the National League and those teams in the Football League is becoming narrower as the seasons progress, with more money finding it's way into the National League system.

The 2018/2019 National League season is the 40th season overall.

National League (Football Conference) Winners Since 2002/2003

SeasonWinnerPlay-Off Winner
2002/2003 Yeovil Town Doncaster Rovers
2003/2004 Chester City Shrewsbury Town
2004/2005 Barnet Carlisle United
2005/2006 Accrington Stanley Hereford United
2006/2007 Dagenham & Redbridge Morecambe
2007/2008 Aldershot Town Exeter City
2008/2009 Burton Albion Torquay United
2009/2010 Stevenage Borough Oxford United
2010/2011 Crawley Town AFC Wimbledon
2011/2012 Fleetwood Town York City
2012/2013 Mansfield Town Newport County
2013/2014 Luton Town Cambridge United
2014/2015 Barnet Bristol Rovers
2015/2016 Cheltenham Town Grimsby Town
2016/2017 Lincoln City Forest Green Rovers
2017/2018 Macclesfield Town Tranmere Rovers

3. National League Odds Explained

With the emergence of players coming from the National League to play in the upper echelons of English football, coupled with the higher media coverage of the League, National League football is gaining in popularity and this is no different for bettors. With a wide range of National League betting markets to choose from, National League betting odds are becoming just as popular to bet on as other more established divisions. We'll discuss the most popular markets here, starting with National League outright bets.

Betting On National League Winners

You can find National League winner odds with every bookmaker. National League title odds are one of the most popular outright bets, with some appealing odds to be found at the start and throughout the season.

Remember that odds on a particular side to win the National League can fluctuate as the season progresses, with factors such as performances, form, injuries, suspensions and so on all playing a part in what odds your National League bookmaker will offer. Think about the odds on offer on each team and assess whether these odds are worth betting on at the start of the season or whether it could be more profitable to wait a few weeks into the season to place the bet. For example, you might look at a National League team and know that their best three players will all miss the start of the season through injury. If this team is your title bet, consider waiting until these players are back to place your bet, if they lose their first few games while their best players are out their odds will lengthen and that will be the time to place your stake.

Bookmakers offer each-way odds on National League title winners. Usually, the each-way market will go down to 3rd place at a quarter of the original odds. If you're thinking about each-way title winner bets, it's advisable to pick a team with longer odds, an each-way bet on a team at odds of 4.0 who then finish second might not be a bet of much worth or much value.

It's an extremely popular bet because the National League title race guarantees excitement until the very end of the season. With the only automatic promotion spot coming with the title, teams fight tooth and nail not just for the National League crown but also to become a member of the English Football League.

Betting On National League Play-Off Finishers

With only one automatic promotion place available currently in the National League, which goes to the League winners, betting on National League play-off finishers can offer even more excitement and more chances for successful bets. With four play-off places available, betting interest in this market lasts until the final kick of the season.

As with the National League winner market, every bookmaker offers odds on play-off place finishers and play-off winners. With some excellent odds to found in this market, it's extremely popular for bettors. It's easier to be successful with your play-off finisher bet if you focus on one side, though many bettors choose to pick two or more teams to all finish between second and fifth place, though of course this is difficult to predict.

Betting On National League Relegation

With four relegation places in the National League, this is another popular market as it offers more scope to pick a correct bet. As with every division, who gets relegated is a popular topic of discussion with fans and bettors alike, and with more relegation places available than in any other English league, the National League relegation market is more exciting and enjoyable than most others.

The shortest odds are usually given to the teams who have just gained promotion from the National League North and the National League South, but it's worth knowing that since 2004, no club has been relegated in their first season after promotion. The teams at bigger odds, such as those sides who've finished mid-table over the last few seasons, may be worth considering and will offer more value.

Betting On National League Top Goalscorers

Like other English divisions, betting on who will be the National League Top Goalscorer is popular amongst bettors as the odds in this market can offer more value than betting on individual matches. There is plenty of talented players currently plying their trade in the National League, with many current Premier League players starting their career with National League clubs testifying.

Top Goalscorer each-way odds are also available with most bookmakers. Again, the each-way odds are usually offered up to third place and at reduced odds. It's interesting to know that of the last 14 years, 13 of the top three Football Conference/National League goalscorers have all played for sides who've finished in at least the play-off spots, so it's a good idea to look at those players playing in sides expected to do well when you consider your top goalscorer bets.

National League (Football Conference) Top Goalscorers Since 2002/2003

2002/2003 Phil Barnes Doncaster Rovers 25
2003/2004 Daryl Clare Chester City 29
2004/2005 Giuliano Grazioli Barnet 29
2005/2006 Andy Bishop York City 23
2006/2007 Paul Benson Dagenham & Redbridge 28
2007/2008 Stuart Fleetwood Forest Green Rovers 28
2008/2009 Andrew Mangan Forest Green Rovers 26
2009/2010 Richard Brodie York City 26
2010/2011 Matt Tubbs Crawley Town 37
2011/2012 Jamie Vardy Halifax Town
Fleetwood Town
2012/2013 Matt Green Mansfield Town 25
2013/2014 Andre Gray Luton Town 30
2014/2015 John Akinde Barnet 31
2015/2016 Padraig Amond Grimsby Town 30
  Dan Holman Cheltenham Town 30
2016/2017 Ricky Miller Dover Athletic 40
2017/2018 Andy Cook Tranmere Rovers 24
  Danny Rowe AFC Fylde 24

4. National League Betting Strategies

When you begin to bet on National League odds, there are some important things to consider and some valuable strategies you can apply to your betting so you can maximise your chances of making consistent profits and minimise your chances of losing your bankroll.


When you start to bet and research how to bet, one of the key words you'll come across is value. For the best chance of profiting from betting on the National League, try and find value bets, the bets that offer you a better chance of making good profit.

How do you find a Value Bet? Firstly, it's important to know what a Value Bet actually is. A Value Bet is where the chances of a particular event happening are greater than the odds suggest. This is done by working out the implied probability of that event happening and then assessing whether the chances of that event happening are greater or lesser than the probability. Then, your knowledge of the National League comes into play. Implied probability is easily worked out with this calculation:

Implied probability = 1 divided by the decimal odds

Let's use another National League example. Macclesfield Town have won the division with a game to play. Their final game of the season is against Chester, who need to win to avoid relegation. Now, the odds on Macclesfield to win, because they're Champions, will be short, let's say 1.50. The odds on Chester to win, because they've struggled all season, are longer, let's say 6.0. The implied probability of Chester winning is 1 divided by 6.0 = 0.16, or 16%. Now, because of the circumstances of this game, with Macclesfield not having anything to play for and Chester desperately needing the win, we can think that Chester's chances to win are bigger than what the 16% suggests. Here we have found a value bet, a bet that can give us a greater return on our stakes.


If you're going to bet on the National League, you're going to have to do your research. Learn everything you can about National League teams, National League results, National League fixtures, National League transfers, injuries and suspensions, everything that can dictate how a team can perform. This will help you identify value bets and hold an advantage over the bookmakers.

To enhance your National League betting, here are our top five sites for National League stats and news:

5. National League Bookmakers, Free Bets & Offers

Because of it's growing popularity, there are many National League bookmakers to choose from. With so many offering all kinds of bonuses to entice you into betting with them, it can be hard to know which bookmaker to sign up with. There are some key things to consider when looking for your bookmaker.

Firstly, the key component to a bookmaker/customer is trust. Does your bookmaker offer consistently competitive odds? Are there hidden criteria not obvious you have to meet when you deposit? Are your winnings paid out fully and on time? Here at bettingexpert, we have a thorough and detailed bookmaker guide to help you decide which bookmaker is for you so it's vital you read our reviews.

Secondly, consider the markets each bookmaker offers. As you become more experienced in betting, you may wish to bet on alternative markets. Not every bookmaker offers every available market. Make sure you're National League bookmaker offers the markets you're most comfortable with.

Thirdly, it's definitely worth signing up with a few different bookmakers and take advantage of their Welcome Bonus for new customers. Others, like Skybet, offer a free £5 bet each week for new customers if you meet certain criteria. There are other free bets that many different bookmakers offer that are well worth taking advantage of to bet with low risk and to make more profit. The most popular National League betting offers include:

Money-Back Specials

Paddy Power are probably the most famous 'money-back special' bookmaker out there, but many others give you these kind of offers. Money-Back Specials can be given on a wide-range of events, such as 'bore-draw' offers, where if the match you bet on finishes 0-0 you get your stake back, or if a certain player scores the first goal you get your stake back. With National League games, most of these specials are reserved for televised games or big promotion or relegation clashes.

Enhanced Odds

Usually reserved for new customers, Enhanced Odds offers are now available to existing customers of many bookmakers. Enhanced Odds offers are where the odds of a particular event are greatly improved, for example if the side top of the National League are 2.0 to win, these odds might be improved to 7.0. These offers are usually subject to a time limit, so keep looking around at the various offers available to make sure you don't miss out. Also, winnings from Enhanced Odds bets are sometimes paid out as free bets rather than withdrawable cash, so make sure you're happy with the terms and conditions of each offer you contemplating taking.

Bet Insurance

Betfair are one of the more popular bookmakers for Bet Insurance, offering what they call their Acca Edge. This is where if you place an accumulator of three or more teams to win and one loses, you get your stake back as cash. With the Acca Edge, there are no minimum odds either. A lot of bookmakers' Bet Insurance offers consist of picking five or more teams on your accumulator, and at certain odds to qualify. Sometimes, your stake is returned as free bets and not cash, so make sure you understand the criteria you have to meet before you place your bet.

To learn more please consult both our detailed bookmaker reviews listing and our comprehensive free bets page.

6. National League Live Streaming

BT Sports have the rights to show live National League football. They broadcast 30 National League games a season, including all play-off matches. The National League also have their own broadcasting arm, NLTV, which shows matches and highlights of the National League, National League North and National League South.

As yet, no bookmaker can provide National League live streaming, live visual streaming, to U.K customers due to U.K Broadcasting Laws. Some, however, can offer audio streaming on certain matches.

7. National League Betting Tips

If you're new to National League betting or experienced with betting on this division, you still might look for National League betting tips to help you with your bets. Here at bettingexpert, we have thousands of experts who offer their National League tips each week.

The key to successful betting on National League football is to do your research. If you can study the league, coupled with managing your bankroll correctly, you stand a great chance of making consistent profits and having an enjoyable time while you do.

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