The Education and Semi-Professional Football Academy (ESPFA) is a unique study programme for 16-18 year olds.


Running alongside existing youth set-ups at participating member clubs, the programme offers the best of each year’s intake the chance to play academy and senior non-league football in the clubs’ main stadia at a level that has a fantastic reputation throughout football.


The programme is an ideal pathway for students who wish to combine their further education with a high quality football programme when leaving high school or transferring from their first year of college.



The ESPFA is unique to any other football & education study programme in the country and a concept no other can provide.

Unlike other programmes that are run individually, all our member clubs are part of a national organisation with the education programme, football programme and the league they compete in, centrally managed with a tier of regional senior management staff to oversee the day to day operation.


The traditional timetable of this type of study programme is based around a matchday on a Wednesday afternoon. In the ESPFA, the time-table is designed around the students education with the three main days of classes and football training taking place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s with games on a Thursday afternoon. Friday is the extra education day for Maths and English retakes and Extended BTEC workshops.


The ESPFA is also the only organisation of this type with links to three senior established leagues at step seven of the English football pyramid system as exclusive further and higher education partners of the Southern League, the Northern Premier League and the Isthmian League.

By joining a national organisation, students will be exposed to more opportunities, experiences and pathways from our partners in education, sport and media.



The ESPFA was originally the overarching organisation of the Northern Premier League Football Academy (NPLFA), the Southern League Football Academy (SLFA) and the Isthimian League Football Academy (SLFA).


The NPLFA was created in partnership with Eliteform LTD and the Northern Premier League in 2014 to become the first ever league wide education and football programme in the UK.


An initial pilot programme that began in 2014/15 saw 75 students enrol at five member clubs Leek Town, Mickleover Sports, Newcastle Town, Radcliffe Borough and Romulus FC.


The success from the inaugural year saw the programme expand to over 300 students at 13 clubs by 2019.


In 2018 the Southern League joined and a year later, the SLFA began with seven member clubs and over 110 students.


Soon after in 2019, the Isthmian League became the third and final league at step seven of the English national pyramid system to join.


With the ILFA Scheduled to begin in 2021, the ESPFA was established as an overarching organisation to manage all three individual league programmes across the nation.


Just before the commencement of the 2020/21 season, the NPLFA, SLFA and ILFA merged under one banner - the ESPFA - officially becoming the official further and higher education partners of the Northern Premier League, the Southern League and the Isthmian League.


An exciting new chapter awaits with the new organisation providing new and improved pathways on and off the pitch, new experiences and opportunities, more competitive games, more flexibility on competitions as well as opening up new club partners from other leagues.

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