The The Football League reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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The Football League

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The Football League is an organisation representing 72 professional football clubs in England and Wales, and runs the oldest professional football league competition in the world. It also organises two knockout cup competitions. The Football League was founded in 1888 with 12 member clubs, but steady growth and the addition of more divisions meant that by 1959 the League had 92 clubs. Financial considerations led to a major shake-up in 1992 when, in a step to maximise their revenue, the leading members of The Football League broke away to form their own competition, the FA Premier League. The Football League therefore no longer represents the top 20 clubs who belong to this group, although promotion and relegation between The Football League and the FA Premier League continues.

Table of contents
1 League competition
2 Cup competitions
3 History
4 Past League winners
5 Football League clubs
6 Former Football League clubs
7 See also
8 External links

League competition

The Football League's 72 member clubs are grouped into three divisions, the Football League Championship, Football League One, and Football League Two. Each division has 24 clubs, and in any given season a club plays each of the others in the same division twice, once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents. This makes for a total of 46 games played each season.

Clubs gain three points for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. At the end of the season, clubs at the top of their division may win promotion to the next higher division, while those at the bottom may be relegated to the next lower one. At the top end of the competition, three Championship clubs win promotion up out of The Football League to the FA Premier League, with the bottom three Premier League clubs taking their places. At the lower end, two League Two clubs lose their Football League status with relegation to the Conference National division of the Football Conference, while two teams from Conference National join League Two of The Football League in their stead.

Division Promoted Relegated
 Directly Up  Via Playoff
The Championship Top 2 clubs One from 3rd-6th
place finishers
Bottom 3 clubs
League One Top 2 clubs One from 3rd-6th
place finishers
Bottom 4 clubs
League Two Top 3 clubs One from 4th-7th
place finishers
Bottom 2 clubs

Promotion and relegation are determined by final league position, but to sustain interest for more clubs over the length of the season one promotion place from each division is decided according to a playoff between four clubs, which takes place at the end of the season. It is therefore possible for a team finishing sixth in the Championship or League One divisions, or seventh in the League Two division to be promoted, rather than the clubs finishing immediately above them in the standings.

Three professional football clubs from Wales, Cardiff City, Wrexham, and Swansea City, play in The Football League. This disqualifies them from participation in the League of Wales and the Welsh Cup, and so also deprives them of the chance to qualify for UEFA competitions by this route. One English club, Berwick Rangers, plays in the Scottish football league system.

Reserve teams of Football League clubs usually play in the Central League (for the Midlands and North) or the Football Combination (for London and the South East).

Cup competitions

The Football League organises two knockout cup competitions, the Football League Cup, currently called the Carling Cup, and the Football League Trophy, currently the LDV Vans Trophy. The League Cup was established in 1960 and is open to all Football League and FA Premier League clubs, with the winner being eligible to participate in the UEFA Cup. The Trophy is for clubs belonging to the League One and League Two and certain Football Conference clubs.


After four years of debate, The Football Association finally legalised professionalism on 20 July 1885. Before that date many clubs made illegal payments to "professional" players in order to boost the competitiveness of their teams, arousing the contempt of those clubs abiding by the laws of the amateur Football Association code. As more and more clubs became professional the ad-hoc fixture list of FA Cup, inter-county, and 'friendly' matches was seen by many as an unreliable stream of revenue, and ways were considered of ensuring a consistent income.

A Scottish draper and director of Aston Villa, William McGregor, was the man who first set out to bring some order to a chaotic world where clubs arranged their own fixtures. He wrote to the leading clubs and organised the founding meeting of The Football League on 22 March 1888. The first season of The Football League began a few months later on 8 September with 12 member clubs: Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Each club played the other twice, once at home and once away, and two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw. Preston won the first league title without losing a game, and completed the first league-cup double by also taking the FA Cup.

The early years of the League saw the addition of more clubs and a new Second Division being formed in 1892, by the absorption of the rival Football Alliance. The bottom clubs of the lower division were required to apply for re-election to the League at the end of each season. Automatic promotion and relegation for two clubs was introduced after the League expanded to two divisions of eighteen in 1898. During this period the League was dominated by northern clubs, with the likes of Sunderland, Newcastle United, and Manchester United joining the League and having success. Liverpool won the first of their record 18 League titles in 1901. It was not until the early years of the new century that southern clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur established themselves in the League, and there would be a further wait until 1931 before a southern club, Arsenal, would win the League for the first time.

The League was suspended for four seasons during World War I and resumed in 1919 with the First and Second Divisions expanded to 22 clubs. The following year, 1920, leading clubs from the Southern League joined the League to form a new Third Division, which in 1921 was renamed the Third Division (South) upon the further addition of more clubs in a new Third Division (North). One club from each of these divisions would gain promotion to the Second Division, with the two relegated clubs being assigned to the most appropriate Third Division. In order to accommodate potential difficulties in this arrangement, clubs in the Midlands such as Mansfield Town or Walsall would sometimes be moved from one Third Division to the other.

Following this burst of postwar growth, the League entered into a prolonged period of relative stability with few changes in the membership, although there were changes on the pitch. A new offside law in 1925 reducing the number of opponents between the player and the goal from three to two led to a large increase in goals. Numbers on shirts were introduced in 1939 and white balls in 1951. The first floodlit game was played between Portsmouth and Newcastle United in 1956, opening up the possibility of midweek evening matches.

The League was suspended once more in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II, this time for seven seasons. The Third Divisions were expanded to 24 clubs each in 1950, bringing the total number of League clubs to 92, and in 1958 the decision was made to end the regionalisation of the Third Divisions and reorganise the clubs into a new nationwide Third Division and Fourth Division. To accomplish this the clubs in the top half of both the Third Division North and South joined together to form the new Third Division, and those in the bottom half made up the Fourth Division. Four clubs were promoted and relegated between these two lower divisions, while two clubs exchanged places in the upper divisions until 1974, when the number increased to three.

A new cup competition open to all the members of the League, the Football League Cup, was held for the first time in 1960-61 to provide clubs a new source of income. Aston Villa won the inaugural League Cup and, despite an initial lack of enthusiasm on the part of some of the bigger clubs, the competition became firmly established in the footballing calendar.

Substitutes were first allowed for injured players in 1965, and for any reason the next year.

Beginning with the 1976-77 season, clubs finishing level on points began to be separated according to goal difference (the difference between goals scored and goals allowed) rather than goal average (goals scored divided by goals allowed). This was an effort to prevent overly defensive play encouraged by the greater advantage in limiting goals allowed. In the event that clubs had equal points and equal goal differences, priority was given to the club that had scored the most goals. There has been only one season, 1988-89, when this level of differentiation was necessary to determine the League champion and this was the occasion of one of the most dramatic nights in League history, when Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in the last game of the season to win the League on this tiebreaker.

Another important change was made in 1981 when it was decided to award three points for a win instead of two, a further effort to increase attacking football. In a similar vein, playoffs to determine promotion and relegation places were introduced in 1987 to prolong hope for more clubs to the end of the season, and at the same time to aid in the reduction over two years of the number of clubs in the First Division from 22 to 20. At the same time, automatic promotion and relegation between the Fourth Division and the Football Conference was introduced for one club, replacing the annual application for re-election to the League of the bottom four clubs and linking the League to the developing National League System pyramid. Emblamatic of the confusion that was beginning to envelop the game, the number of clubs at the top of the league would return to 22 for the 1991-92 season, before once more dropping to 20 for 1995-96. The issues creating the uncertainty in the game all centered on money.

The increasing influence of money in English football was evident with such events as the first ã1m transfer in the game, that of Trevor Francis from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest in February 1979. Beginning in 1983 the League has accepted lucrative sponsorships for its main competition. Below is a list of who the sponsors have been and what the League was called under their sponsorship:

The League's cup competitions have different sponsors.

The other major source of money, and by far the most important one, is television. The 1980s saw competition between terrestrial broadcasters for the rights to show League matches, but the arrival on the scene of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting (Sky TV), eagerly searching for attractive programming to build its customer base and willing to pay huge sums, changed the picture entirely. The League's top tier clubs had been agitating for several years to be able to keep more of the League's revenue for themselves, threatening to break away and form their own league if necessary. In 1992 the threat was realised as the First Division clubs left to establish the FA Premier League and signed a contract for exclusive live coverage of their games with Sky TV. The FA Premier League agreed to maintain the promotion and relegation of three clubs with The Football League, but The Football League was now in a far weaker position - without its best clubs and without the clout to negotiate high revenue TV deals. This problem was exacerbated with the collapse in 2002 of ITV Digital, holder of TV rights for The Football League, which cost League clubs millions of pounds in revenue.

The new, slimmed down League, 70 clubs until 1995 and 72 clubs since, renamed its divisions to reflect the changes. The old Second Division became the new First Division, the Third Division became the Second Division, and the Fourth Division became the Third Division. The financial health of its clubs has become perhaps the highest League priority due to the limited resources available. However there are some promising signs for the future, as the League plans to announce new initiatives beginning with the 2004-05 season, coinciding with the start of a new sponsorship agreement with Coca-Cola. The first of these changes was a rebranding of the League with the renaming of the First Division to The Championship, the Second Division to League One and the Third Division to League Two.

Past League winners


SeasonFirst DivisionSecond DivisionThird Division SouthThird Division North
1888-89Preston North End   
1889-90Preston North End
1892-93SunderlandSmall Heath
1893-94Aston VillaLiverpool
1895-96Aston VillaLiverpool
1896-97Aston VillaNotts County
1897-98Sheffield UnitedBurnley
1898-99Aston VillaManchester City
1899-1900Aston VillaThe Wednesday
1900-01LiverpoolGrimsby Town
1901-02SunderlandWest Bromwich Albion
1902-03The WednesdayManchester City
1903-04The WednesdayPreston North End
1904-05Newcastle UnitedLiverpool
1905-06LiverpoolBristol City
1906-07Newcastle UnitedNottingham Forest
1907-08Manchester UnitedBradford City
1908-09Newcastle UnitedBolton Wanderers
1909-10Aston VillaManchester City
1910-11Manchester UnitedWest Bromwich Albion
1911-12Blackburn RoversDerby County
1912-13SunderlandPreston North End
1913-14Blackburn RoversNotts County
1914-15EvertonDerby County
1915-19League suspended due to World War One
1919-20West Bromwich AlbionTottenham Hotspur
1920-21BurnleyBirmingham CityCrystal Palace*
1921-22LiverpoolNottingham ForestSouthamptonStockport County
1922-23LiverpoolNotts CountyBristol CityNelson
1923-24Huddersfield TownLeeds UnitedPortsmouthWolverhampton Wanderers
1924-25Huddersfield TownLeicester CitySwansea CityDarlington
1925-26Huddersfield TownSheffield WednesdayReadingGrimsby Town
1926-27Newcastle UnitedMiddlesbroughBristol CityStoke City
1927-28EvertonManchester CityMillwallBradford Park Avenue
1928-29Sheffield WednesdayMiddlesbroughCharlton AthleticBradford City
1929-30Sheffield WednesdayBlackpoolPlymouth ArgylePort Vale
1930-31ArsenalEvertonNotts CountyChesterfield
1931-32EvertonWolverhampton WanderersFulhamLincoln City
1932-33ArsenalStoke CityBrentfordHull City
1933-34ArsenalGrimsby TownNorwich CityBarnsley
1934-35ArsenalBrentfordCharlton AthleticDoncaster Rovers
1935-36SunderlandManchester UnitedCoventry CityChesterfield
1936-37Manchester CityLeicester CityLuton TownStockport County
1937-38ArsenalAston VillaMillwallTranmere Rovers
1938-39EvertonBlackburn RoversNewport CountyBarnsley
1939-46League suspended due to World War Two
1946-47LiverpoolManchester CityCardiff CityDoncaster Rovers
1947-48ArsenalBirmingham CityQueens Park RangersLincoln City
1948-49PortsmouthFulhamSwansea CityHull City
1949-50PortsmouthTottenham HotspurNotts CountyDoncaster Rovers
1950-51Tottenham HotspurPreston North EndNottingham ForestRotherham United
1951-52Manchester UnitedSheffield WednesdayPlymouth ArgyleLincoln City
1952-53ArsenalSheffield UnitedBristol RoversOldham Athletic
1953-54Wolverhampton WanderersLeicester CityIpswich TownPort Vale
1954-55ChelseaBirmingham CityBristol CityBarnsley
1955-56Manchester UnitedSheffield WednesdayLeyton OrientGrimsby Town
1956-57Manchester UnitedLeicester CityIpswich TownDerby County
1957-58Wolverhampton WanderersWest Ham UnitedBrighton & Hove AlbionScunthorpe United

*Known as the Third Division for this season.


For the beginning of the 1958-59 season, national Third and Fourth Divisions were introduced to replace the regional Third Division North and Third Division South.

SeasonFirst DivisionSecond DivisionThird DivisionFourth Division
1958-59Wolverhampton WanderersSheffield WednesdayPlymouth ArgylePort Vale
1959-60BurnleyAston VillaSouthamptonWalsall
1960-61Tottenham HotspurIpswich TownBuryPeterborough United
1961-62Ipswich TownLiverpoolPortsmouthMillwall
1962-63EvertonStoke CityNorthampton TownBrentford
1963-64LiverpoolLeeds UnitedCoventry CityGillingham
1964-65Manchester UnitedNewcastle UnitedCarlisle UnitedBrighton & Hove Albion
1965-66LiverpoolManchester CityHull CityDoncaster Rovers
1966-67Manchester UnitedCoventry CityQueens Park RangersStockport County
1967-68Manchester CityIpswich TownOxford UnitedLuton Town
1968-69Leeds UnitedDerby CountyWatfordDoncaster Rovers
1969-70EvertonHuddersfield TownLeyton OrientChesterfield
1970-71ArsenalLeicester CityPreston North EndNotts County
1971-72Derby CountyNorwich CityAston VillaGrimsby Town
1972-73LiverpoolBurnleyBolton WanderersSouthport
1973-74Leeds UnitedMiddlesbroughOldham AthleticPeterborough United
1974-75Derby CountyManchester UnitedBlackburn RoversMansfield Town
1975-76LiverpoolSunderlandHereford UnitedLincoln City
1976-77LiverpoolWolverhampton WanderersMansfield TownCambridge United
1977-78Nottingham ForestBolton WanderersWrexhamWatford
1978-79LiverpoolCrystal PalaceShrewsbury TownReading
1979-80LiverpoolLeicester CityGrimsby TownHuddersfield Town
1980-81Aston VillaWest Ham UnitedRotherham UnitedSouthend United
1981-82LiverpoolLuton TownBurnleySheffield United
1982-83LiverpoolQueens Park RangersPortsmouthWimbledon
1983-84LiverpoolChelseaOxford UnitedYork City
1984-85EvertonOxford UnitedBradford CityChesterfield
1985-86LiverpoolNorwich CityReadingSwindon Town
1986-87EvertonDerby CountyBournemouthNorthampton Town
1987-88LiverpoolMillwallSunderlandWolverhampton Wanderers
1988-89ArsenalChelseaWolverhampton WanderersRotherham United
1989-90LiverpoolLeeds UnitedBristol RoversExeter City
1990-91ArsenalOldham AthleticCambridge UnitedDarlington
1991-92Leeds UnitedIpswich TownBrentfordBurnley


Following the breakaway of the clubs in the First Division to form the FA Premier League, The Football League no longer included the top clubs in England. The Second Division was renamed the First Division, the Third Division became the Second Division, and the Fourth Division became the Third Division.

SeasonFirst DivisionSecond DivisionThird Division
1992-93Newcastle UnitedStoke CityCardiff City
1993-94Crystal PalaceReadingShrewsbury Town
1994-95MiddlesbroughBirmingham CityCarlisle United
1995-96SunderlandSwindon TownPreston North End
1996-97Bolton WanderersBuryWigan Athletic
1997-98Nottingham ForestWatfordNotts County
1999-2000Charlton AthleticPreston North EndSwansea City
2000-01FulhamMillwallBrighton & Hove Albion
2001-02Manchester CityBrighton & Hove AlbionPlymouth Argyle
2002-03PortsmouthWigan AthleticRushden & Diamonds
2003-04Norwich CityPlymouth ArgyleDoncaster Rovers

Football League clubs

Below are listed the member clubs of The Football League for the 2004-2005 season. There are 24 clubs in each division.

The Championship
Brighton and Hove Albion
Cardiff City
Coventry City
Crewe Alexandra
Derby County
Ipswich Town
Leicester City
Leeds United
Nottingham Forest
Plymouth Argyle
Preston North End
Queens Park Rangers
Rotherham United
Sheffield United
Stoke City
West Ham United
Wigan Athletic
Wolverhampton Wanderers

League One
Bradford City
Bristol City
Colchester United
Doncaster Rovers
Hartlepool United
Huddersfield Town
Hull City
Luton Town
Milton Keynes Dons
Oldham Athletic
Peterborough United
Port Vale
Sheffield Wednesday
Stockport County
Swindon Town
Torquay United
Tranmere Rovers

League Two
Boston United
Bristol Rovers
Cambridge United
Cheltenham Town
Chester City
Grimsby Town
Kidderminster Harriers
Leyton Orient
Lincoln City
Macclesfield Town
Mansfield Town
Northampton Town
Notts County
Oxford United
Rushden and Diamonds
Scunthorpe United
Shrewsbury Town
Southend United
Swansea City
Wycombe Wanderers
Yeovil Town

Former Football League clubs

This list does not include clubs currently playing in the FA Premier League, all of which were formerly members of The Football League.

Note: R indicates that the club was relegated from The Football League.

Club Years in League Notes
Aberdare Athletic 1921-1927  
Accrington 1888-1893  
Accrington Stanley 1921-1962  
Aldershot 1932-1992  
Ashington 1921-1929  
Barnet 1991-2001R  
Barrow 1921-1972  
Bootle 1892-1893  
Bradford Park Avenue 1908-1970  
Burton United 1892-1907 Burton United was known as Burton Swifts until
1901, at which time the club merged with Burton
Wanderers to form Burton United.
Burton Wanderers 1894-1897 See Burton United.
Carlisle United 1928-2004R  
Darwen 1891-1899  
Durham City 1921-1928  
Exeter City 1920-2003R First club to be relegated after finishing second
from bottom of The Football League.
Gainsborough Trinity 1896-1912  
Gateshead 1919-1960 Known as South Shields until 1930.
Glossop 1898-1915 Known as Glossop North End until 1899.
Halifax Town 1921-1993R
Only club to have been relegated from The
Football League twice.
Hereford United 1972-1997R  
Leeds City 1905-1919  
Loughborough 1895-1900 Also known as Loughborough Town.
Maidstone United 1989-1992  
Merthyr Town 1920-1930  
Middlesbrough Ironopolis 1893-1894  
Nelson 1921-1931  
New Brighton 1923-1951  
New Brighton Tower 1898-1901  
Newport County 1920-1931
Northwich Victoria 1892-1894  
Rotherham Town 1893-1896 Would merge with Rotherham County in 1926 to
form Rotherham United.
Scarborough 1987-1999R  
Southport 1921-1978  
Stalybridge Celtic 1921-1923  
Thames 1930-1932  
Wigan Borough 1921-1931  
Workington 1951-1977  
York City 1929-2004R  

See also

External links