The oldest (but not wisest) League in the world was founded in 1888, and initially consisted of 12 clubs in the midlands and north of England. The FA cup, which initially embraced both Scottish and southern “non – league” clubs, had already been going since 1872. It was not called the English League as initially it hoped it would grow to include Scottish clubs, but these later (1890) formed their own league instead.
A second division was added by absorbing the rival Football Alliance in 1892, and by 1899 it had 36 member clubs. Initially the bottom four clubs had to apply for (re) – election, but this was reduced to three (1895/6), then two (1898/9), before reverting to four (two each for the regional Division 3-s) in 1920/1. Between 1893 and 1898 “test matches” (an early form of play – offs) were used to decide all promotion issues between the two divisions. The league stopped between 1915 and 1919 for the First World War, but resumed in the latter year with 40 clubs. The league was still largely northern – and midlands – based, so in 1920 virtually the entire First Division of the rival southern League was absorbed as the FL-s Third Division. The following year a further batch of clubs from the midlands and north were added to make two regional Division 3`s, North and South.
Stopping again for the Second World War (1940 – 1946), it saw the creation of Division 4 in 1958, expansion by four clubs to 92 in 1959 and the start of the League Cup in 1960.
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