Football Club History Database - English Football League History
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English Football League

English Football League logo

The Football League was the first league to be formed in the world. From small beginnings of 12 clubs in 1888 (all based around the North of England and the Midlands), expansion saw the league cater for 92 clubs by 1950. The breakaway of the top clubs to form the F.A. Premier League in 1992 degraded the quality of the first division, but "League status" is still the ultimate aim of a large number of semi-professional clubs across the country.

Preston North End were the inaugural champions, not losing a game in 1888-89. Over the first decade, clubs came and went with the epicentre still very much in the North of England. Woolwich Arsenal became the first club from South of Birmingham to join in 1893, a season after the league expanded to two divisions. After the turn of the century, the league became more and more representative of England as a whole. Aston Villa had become the second club to compete the League/F.A. Cup double in 1897, but Tottenham Hotspur, of the Southern League became the only club from below the Football League to take the F.A. Cup in 1901.

The league ceased operations for the duration of the Great War, but upon resumption in 1919, expansion again was on the agenda. A Third Division (South) was formed by the inclusion of the entire Southern League First Division, with, a year later a Northern Section also formed.

Until the 1920s, no club had won three successive Championships, but that changed with Huddersfield Town doing so, followed a decade later by Arsenal, as the league celebrated its golden jubilee.

After another break for the Second World War, the pre-eminent position among English football was resumed. Huge crowds flocked to see entertaining matches, with many of the founder members enjoying a resurgence.

European competition came during the 1950s, and Football League clubs were soon amongst the honours. Tottenham Hotspur, who in 1961 had become only the third club to perform the "double", won the 1963 Cup Winners Cup, a feat equalled by West Ham United two years later. But the really big one, the European Cup, eluded English clubs until 1968 when Manchester United beat Benfica of Portugal 4-1 at Wembley.

Into the 1970s, and a new force began to emerge on to the scene. Liverpool took the 1972-3 title, which was to be the first of 11 titles in 16 years. Four European Cups also found their way to Anfield. Other English clubs, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa also claimed Europe's biggest prize during this time.

Since then, the big have got bigger and the small have got smaller. TV revenues, which used to be split fairly evenly across all clubs, were re-directed towards the biggest. The concentration of finance and talent in a minority of clubs saw those clubs demand more and more influence over the way things were run, and in 1992 the First Division clubs broke away to form the F.A. Premier League, leaving the remainder to re-form Divisions One, Two and Three. The league has carried on it that form since, automatic promotion to the Premier League being available for the top two sides of the First Division plus a play-off winner.

The play-offs were a child of the 1980s, originally formed to ease the reduction in size of Division One from 22 to 20 clubs. Then, they consisted of one club which had just avoided automatic relegation, plus three who had just missed out on automatic promotion. Now, still hugely popular in some quarters and anathema in others, four clubs fighting for promotion compete in semi-finals and a Wembley Stadium final.

Currently the league consists of 3 divisions of 24 clubs each, confusingly renamed in 2004 to be "Championship", "League One" and "League Two"

After over 100 years as the "Football League", the league adopted the name "English Football League", commonly abbreviated to EFL, in 2016.


Sponsors of the Football League


Season-by-season Champions

Season Champions
1888-89 Preston North End
1889-90 Preston North End
1890-91 Everton
1891-92 Sunderland

Division Two was added in 1892

Season Division One Division Two
1892-93 Sunderland Small Heath
1893-94 Aston Villa Liverpool
1894-95 Sunderland Bury
1895-96 Aston Villa Liverpool
1896-97 Aston Villa Notts County
1897-98 Sheffield United Burnley
1898-99 Aston Villa Manchester City
1899-00 Aston Villa Sheffield Wednesday
1900-01 Liverpool Grimsby Town
1901-02 Sunderland West Bromwich Albion
1902-03 Sheffield Wednesday Manchester City
1903-04 Sheffield Wednesday Preston North End
1904-05 Newcastle United Liverpool
1905-06 Liverpool Bristol City
1906-07 Newcastle United Nottingham Forest
1907-08 Manchester United Bradford City
1908-09 Newcastle United Bolton Wanderers
1909-10 Aston Villa Manchester City
1910-11 Manchester United West Bromwich Albion
1911-12 Blackburn Rovers Derby County
1912-13 Sunderland Preston North End
1913-14 Blackburn Rovers Notts County
1914-15 Everton Derby County
1915-19 Comeptition suspended during World War I
1919-20 West Bromwich Albion Tottenham Hotspur

In 1920, a Third Division South was added, mainly of clubs from the Southern League.

Season Division One Division Two Division Three South
1920-21 Burnley Birmingham Crystal Palace

One year later, Division Three North was added

Season Division One Division Two Division Three North Division Three South
1921-22 Liverpool Nottingham Forest Stockport County Southampton
1922-23 Liverpool Notts County Nelson Bristol City
1923-24 Huddersfield Town Leeds United Wolverhampton Wanderers Portsmouth
1924-25 Huddersfield Town Leicester City Darlington Swansea Town
1925-26 Huddersfield Town Sheffield Wednesday Grimsby Town Reading
1926-27 Newcastle United Middlesbrough Stoke City Bristol City
1927-28 Everton Manchester City Bradford Park Avenue Millwall
1928-29 Sheffield Wednesday Middlesbrough Bradford City Charlton Athletic
1929-30 Sheffield Wednesday Blackpool Port Vale Plymouth Argyle
1930-31 Arsenal Everton Chesterfield Notts County
1931-32 Everton Wolverhampton Wanderers Lincoln City Fulham
1932-33 Arsenal Stoke City Hull City Brentford
1933-34 Arsenal Grimsby Town Barnsley Norwich City
1934-35 Arsenal Brentford Doncaster Rovers Charlton Athletic
1935-36 Sunderland Manchester United Chesterfield Coventry City
1936-37 Manchester City Leicester City Stockport County Luton Town
1937-38 Arsenal Aston Villa Tranmere Rovers Walsall
1938-39 Everton Blackburn Rovers Barnsley Newport County
1939-40 Competition abandoned on outbreak of World War II
1940-45 Competition suspended during World War II
1946-47 Liverpool Manchester City Doncaster Rovers Cardiff City
1947-48 Arsenal Birmingham City Lincoln City Queens Park Rangers
1948-49 Portsmouth Fulham Hull City Swansea Town
1949-50 Portsmouth Tottenham Hotspur Doncaster Rovers Notts County
1950-51 Tottenham Hotpur Preston North End Rotherham United Nottingham Forest
1951-52 Manchester United Sheffield Wednesday Lincoln City Plymouth Argyle
1952-53 Arsenal Sheffield United Oldham Athletic Bristol Rovers
1953-54 Wolverhampton Wanderers Leicester City Port Vale Ipswich Town
1954-55 Chelsea Birmingham City Barnsley Bristol City
1955-56 Manchester United Sheffield Wednesday Grimsby Town Leyton Orient
1956-57 Manchester United Leicester City Derby County Ipswich Town
1957-58 Wolverhampton Wanderers West Ham United Scunthorpe & Lindsey United Brighton & Hove Albion

In 1958, the lower divisions were re-organised. The geographical split was abandoned, and Divisions Three North and South became Divisions Three and Four

Divisions One, Two, Three and Four

Season Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four
1958-59 Wolverhampton Wanderers Sheffield Wednesday Plymouth Argyle Port Vale
1959-60 Burnley Aston Villa Southampton Walsall
1960-61 Tottenham Hotspur Ipswich Town Bury Peterborough United
1961-62 Ipswich Town Liverpool Portsmouth Everton
1962-63 Everton Stoke City Northampton Town Brentford
1963-64 Liverpool Leeds United Coventry City Gillingham
1964-65 Manchester United Newcastle United Carlisle United Brighton & Hove Albion
1965-66 Liverpool Manchester City Hull City Doncaster Rovers
1966-67 Manchester United Coventry City Queens Park Rangers Stockport County
1967-68 Manchester City Ipswich Town Oxford United Luton Town
1968-69 Leeds United Derby County Watford Doncaster Rovers
1969-70 Everton Orient Huddersfield Town Chesterfield
1970-71 Arsenal Leicester City Preston North End Notts County
1971-72 Derby County Norwich City Aston Villa Grimsby Town
1972-73 Liverpool Burnley Bolton Wanderers Southport
1973-74 Leeds United Middlesbrough Oldham Athletic Peterborough United
1974-75 Derby County Manchester United Blackburn Rovers Mansfield Town
1975-76 Liverpool Sunderland Hereford United Lincoln City
1976-77 Liverpool Wolverhampton Wanderers Mansfield Town Cambridge United
1977-78 Nottingham Forest Bolton Wanderers Wrexham Watford
1978-79 Liverpool Crystal Palace Shrewsbury Town Reading
1979-80 Liverpool Leicester City Grimsby Town Huddersfield Town
1980-81 Aston Villa West Ham United Rotherham United Southend United
1981-82 Liverpool Luton Town Burnley Sheffield United
1982-83 Liverpool Queens Park Rangers Portsmouth Wimbledon
1983-84 Liverpool Chelsea Oxford United York City
1984-85 Everton Oxford United Bradford City Chesterfield
1985-86 Liverpool Norwich City Reading Swindon Town
1986-87 Everton Derby County A F C Bournemouth Northampton Town
1987-88 Liverpool Millwall Sunderland Wolverhampton Wanderers
1988-89 Arsenal Chelsea Wolverhampton Wanderers Rotherham United
1989-90 Liverpool Leeds United Bristol Rovers Exeter City
1990-91 Arsenal Oldham Athletic Cambridge United Darlington
1991-92 Leeds United Ipswich Town Brentford Burnley

In 1992, the FA Premier League was formed taking the 22 clubs that would have formed Division One for 1992-93. The remaining three divisions were still named Division One, Two and Three with the name "Division Four" disappearing

Divisions One, Two and Three

Season Division One Division Two Division Three
1992-93 Newcastle United Stoke City Cardiff City
1993-94 Crystal Palace Reading Shrewsbury Town
1994-95 Middlesbrough Birmingham City Carlisle United
1995-96 Sunderland Swindon Town Preston North End
1996-97 Bolton Wanderers Bury Wigan Athletic
1997-98 Nottingham Forest Watford Notts County
1998-99 Sunderland Fulham Brentford
1999-00 Charlton Athletic Preston North End Swansea City
2000-01 Fulham Millwall Brighton & Hove Albion
2001-02 Manchester City Brighton & Hove Albion Plymouth Argyle
2002-03 Portsmouth Wigan Athletic Rushden & Diamonds
2003-04 Norwich City Plymouth Argyle Doncaster Rovers

In 2004, the divisions were re-named

Championship, League One and League Two

Season Championship League One League Two
2004-05 Sunderland Luton Town Yeovil Town
2005-06 Reading Southend United Carlisle United
2006-07 Sunderland Scunthorpe United Walsall
2007-08 West Bromwich Albion Swansea City Milton Keynes Dons
2008-09 Wolverhampton Wanderers Leicester City Brentford
2009-10 Newcastle United Norwich City Notts County
2010-11 Queens Park Rangers Brighton & Hove Albion Chesterfield
2011-12 Reading Charlton Athletic Swindon Town
2012-13 Cardiff City Doncaster Rovers Gillingham
2013-14 Leicester City Wolverhampton Wanderers Chesterfield
2014-15 A F C Bournemouth Bristol City Burton Albion
2015-16 Burnley Wigan Athletic Northampton Town
2016-17 Newcastle United Sheffield United Portsmouth
2017-18 Wolverhampton Wanderers Wigan Athletic Accrington Stanley
2018-19 Norwich City Luton Town Lincoln City
2019-20 Leeds United Coventry City Swindon Town
2020-21 Norwich City Hull City Cheltenham Town

The F.C.H.D. has the complete final table information for this league, the tables have been published in numerous books over recent years.


Other related websites

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Please acknowledge the F.C.H.D. when using this information elsewhere