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Otherwise known as the English Football League but quite properly known as The Football League as it was the first. (Standard qualifier; that's football as in association football or soccer if you prefer, to avoid any confusion.)

A Potted history

Ironically the English Football League was the invention of a Scottish draper William McGregor who sought to bring some organisation into the rather chaotic state of professional football. At a meeting held at Anderton’s Hotel in Fleet Street, London on the 22nd March 1888, it was agreed to form a Football League and the first competition began on 8 September 1888 with the following twelve clubs: Preston North End, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Burnley, Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Notts County, Derby County and Stoke. (All of which continue in existence today, with the exception of Accrington which folded in the 1890's)

Preston North End went on to claim the first Football League Championship without losing a game. The Football League gradually expanded over the years, adding a second, third and finally a fourth division as the popularity of football grew, and remained the effective national English football championship for over a century (with the odd disruption caused by major global conflict)until the early 1990's

The Football Association (the ruling body for the game in England) had long resented the alternative power centre represented by the Football League and in 1991 armed with the prospect of a fat TV contract from Rupert Murdoch's Sky TV was able to float the idea of a new 'Super League'. Eventually all the top twenty two Football League clubs tendered their resignation and joined the new FA Premier League

The Current position

The Football League continues and is these days known as the Nationwide Football League after its sponsors the Nationwide Building Society. There continues to be promotion and relegation between the Premier League and the First Division and although it no longer represents the national championship of English football as it once did, it still represents the majority of English professional football clubs and effectively acts as a series of feeder leagues to its bigger brother, the Premier League. (The whole point of the Premier League being to ensure that the top clubs get the lion's share of the available sponsorship and television funds and not to necessarily change anything of the structure of English football per se.)

The old second, third and fourth divisions of the pre 1992 Football League were simply renamed first, second and third in the post 1992 world. It tried its hand at doing its own lucrative TV rights deal, but unfortunately went with ITV digital (the former On digital) which simply over-estimated the appeal of Gillingham versus Blackpool on a cold Tuesday night and went bankrupt. (The matter is now in the hands of the lawyers who will be earning off this one for many years to come.)

Winners of the Football League Championship

Their have been ninety three winners of the Football League Championship over its one hundred and three year history, the top club being Liverpool, winner a total of eighteen times.

See the Football League website at http://www.football-league.co.uk as well as the offical Nationwide Football League site at http://www.football.nationwide.co.uk/football/default.asp

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