The National Conference League was founded as the National League for the 1986/1987 season with 10 teams: Dudley Hill, Egremont Rangers, Heworth, Leigh Miners Welfare (now Leigh Miners Rangers), Milford Marlins, Millom, Pilkington Recs, West Hull, Wigan St Patrick's and Woolston Rovers.
It was the ten elite teams of the Amateur game and its aim was to provide the highest level of competition for amateur players that would lead the way for the rest of the playing Leagues to follow.
The original NCL concept was to have one team per town that would have the very best facilities to attract players with ambitions to play at the highest level they can. But inevitably as the League progressed, developed and expanded the hot beds of Rugby League were able to provide more than one top level side.
In 1987/88 season it ran its own Challenge Cup competition, which ran until 1993/94 season, when the increase in clubs and fixtures left no room in the calendar for the competition.
The league added a second division in 1989, and expanded to three divisions (now named premier, first and second as opposed to first and second) along with a re-brand to the current name of National Conference League in 1993. That was when semi-professional clubs, Blackpool Borough, Chorley Lynx and Nottingham joined the league from the RFL. Chorley did reasonably well for a couple of seasons but Blackpool and Nottingham both struggled.
The NCL has established itself as the leading brand of what is now termed the Community game, providing 90 per cent of representative players for the Great Britain Community Lions and the BARLA international team and throughout its history it has provided a number of giant-killers in the RFL Challenge Cup.
In 2001/02 season they introduced a top five play-off system for the Champions in the Premier Division, which was increased to a top-six competition in 2006/07.
The NCL Eagles are the representative side of the competition and play annual fixtures against the French and are currently in the second year of a four year agreement to play Languedoc Roussillon, home and away.
The National Conference League launched a series of Summer Divisions in 2009 but didn’t repeat its summer experiment in 2010.
The NCL voted to switch to a summer season in 2011 and after an interim season from August to November commenced it’s very first full summer campaign on March 3 2012.