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Football League Third Division

Football League Third Division

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The Football League Third Division was the 3 tier of English Football from 1920 until 1992 when after the formation of the Football Association Premier League saw the league renamed The Football League Division Two. In 2006 the league was renamed Football League One.

Founder Clubs of the Third Division (1920)


Most of these clubs were drawn from what was then the top division of the Southern Football League
Southern Football League
The Southern League is an English football competition featuring semi-professional and amateur clubs from the South West, South Central and Midlands of England and South Wales...

, in an expansion of the Football League south of Birmingham. As Cardiff City
Cardiff City F.C.
Cardiff City Football Club are a Welsh professional football club based in Cardiff, Wales. The club competes in the English football pyramid and is currently playing in the Football League Championship. Cardiff City is the best supported football club in Wales, averaging approximately 22,500 for...

 was long considered a potential entrant for the Second Division due to their FA Cup
FA Cup
The Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly known as the FA Cup, is a knockout cup competition in English football and is the oldest association football competition in the world. The "FA Cup" is run by and named after The Football Association and usually refers to the English men's...

 exploits and Southern League dominance, they were sent directly into the Second Division and Grimsby Town, last place in the Second Division for 1919–20, was relegated.
  • Brentford F.C.
    Brentford F.C.
    Brentford Football Club are a professional English football club based in Brentford in the London Borough of Hounslow. They are currently playing in Football League One....

  • Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
    Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
    Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club are an English association football club based in the coastal city of Brighton & Hove, East Sussex. They currently play in the Football League Championship, the second tier of the English football league system....

  • Bristol Rovers F.C.
    Bristol Rovers F.C.
    Bristol Rovers Football Club is an English professional football club, based in Bristol, that competes in Football League Two. The team plays its home matches at the Memorial Stadium, in the Horfield area of the city....

  • Crystal Palace F.C.
    Crystal Palace F.C.
    Crystal Palace Football Club are an English Football league club based in South Norwood, London. The team plays its home matches at Selhurst Park, where they have been based since 1924. The club currently competes in the second tier of English Football, The Championship.Crystal Palace was formed in...

     (initial champions in 1920–21)
  • Exeter City F.C.
    Exeter City F.C.
    Exeter City Football Club is an English football club, based in Exeter, which is owned by its fans through the Exeter City Supporters Trust.The club was a member of the Football League from 1920 to 2003...

  • Gillingham F.C.
    Gillingham F.C.
    Gillingham Football Club is an English professional football club based in the town of Gillingham, Kent. The only Kent-based club in the Football League, they play their home matches at the Priestfield Stadium...

  • Grimsby Town F.C.
    Grimsby Town F.C.
    Grimsby Town Football Club is an English football club based in the seaside town of Cleethorpes, in North East Lincolnshire, England, who compete in the Conference National. They were formed in 1878 as Grimsby Pelham and later became Grimsby Town...

  • Luton Town F.C.
    Luton Town F.C.
    Luton Town Football Club is an English professional football club based since 1905 at Kenilworth Road, Luton, Bedfordshire. The club currently competes in the fifth tier of English football, the Conference National, for the third consecutive season during the 2011–12 season.Formed in 1885, it was...

  • Merthyr Town F.C.
    Merthyr Town F.C.
    Merthyr Town Football Club is a Welsh semi-professional football club based in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. For the 2011–2012 season the club will be playing in the Western Football League Premier Division at Penydarren Park in Merthyr....

  • Millwall F.C.
    Millwall F.C.
    Millwall Football Club is an English professional football club based in South Bermondsey, south east London, that plays in the Football League Championship, the second tier of English football. Founded as Millwall Rovers in 1885, the club has retained its name despite having last played in the...

  • Newport County A.F.C.
    Newport County A.F.C.
    Newport County Association Football Club are a professional football club based in the city of Newport, south Wales, who currently play in the Conference National, the highest level of the National League System and fifth highest of the overall English football league system...

  • Northampton Town F.C.
    Northampton Town F.C.
    Northampton Town Football Club are an English professional football club based in Northampton, Northamptonshire. They currently play in Football League Two, the lowest league division, after being relegated from League One on the last day of the 2008–09 season...

  • Norwich City F.C.
    Norwich City F.C.
    Norwich City Football Club is an English professional football club based in Norwich, Norfolk. As of the 2011–12 season, Norwich City are again playing in the Premier League after a six-year absence, having finished as runner up in the Championship in 2010–11 and winning automatic promotion.The...

  • Plymouth Argyle F.C.
    Plymouth Argyle F.C.
    Plymouth Argyle Football Club is an English professional football club, based in Plymouth, Devon, that plays in Football League Two.Since becoming professional in 1903, the club has won five Football League titles, five Southern League titles and one Western League title. The 2009–10 season was the...

  • Portsmouth F.C.
    Portsmouth F.C.
    Portsmouth Football Club is an English football club based in the city of Portsmouth. The club is nicknamed Pompey. Portsmouth's home matches have been played at Fratton Park since the club's formation in 1898. The team currently play in the Football League Championship after being relegated from...

  • Queens Park Rangers F.C.
    Queens Park Rangers F.C.
    Queens Park Rangers Football Club is an English professional football club, based in White City, Hammersmith and Fulham, west London. As the 2010-11 Football League Championship champions, they now play in the top tier of English football the Premier League, for the first time in 15 years...

  • Reading
    Reading F.C.
    Reading Football Club is an English association football club based in the town of Reading, Berkshire who currently play in the Championship...

  • Southampton
    Southampton F.C.
    Southampton Football Club is an English football team, nicknamed The Saints, based in the city of Southampton, Hampshire. The club gained promotion to the Championship from League One in the 2010–2011 season after being relegated in 2009. Their home ground is the St Mary's Stadium, where the club...

  • Southend United F.C.
    Southend United F.C.
    Southend United Football Club is an English football club based at Roots Hall Stadium, Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, who play in Football League Two. Their home ground is Roots Hall, and the club plan to move into a new 22,000-seater stadium located at Fossetts Farm.-Stadium:The club has had...

  • Swansea Town F.C.
    Swansea City A.F.C.
    Swansea City Association Football Club are a Welsh professional football club based in Swansea, Wales. One of the most successful clubs in Welsh football, it has won 10 Welsh Cups and led the English Football League First Division in December 1981, before finishing the season in 6th position...

  • Swindon Town F.C.
    Swindon Town F.C.
    Swindon Town Football Club are a team based in Swindon, Wiltshire. Currently in League Two, Swindon have been managed by Paolo Di Canio since 23 May 2011...

  • Watford F.C.
    Watford F.C.
    Watford Football Club is an English professional football club based in Watford, Hertfordshire. It is often referred to as Watford F.C., Watford, or by the team's nickname The Hornets . Watford Rovers, Founded in 1881, entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1886, and the Southern League a decade...



This league continued as Football League Third Division South
Football League Third Division South
The Football League Third Division South was a level of English professional football which ran in parallel to Third Division North from 1921 to 1958....

; Football League Third Division North
Football League Third Division North
The Third Division North of The Football League was a tier in the English association football league system from 1921 to 1958. It ran parallel to Third Division South with clubs elected to the League or relegated from a higher division allocated to one or the other according to geographical position...

 is formed with Northern clubs; geographical separation is abolished in 1958.

As a single Third Division


The original members in 1958–59 were:
  • From Third Division North: Accrington Stanley, Bradford City, Bury, Chesterfield, Halifax Town, Hull City, Mansfield Town, Rochdale, Stockport County, Tranmere Rovers, Wrexham
  • From Third Division South: Bournemouth, Brentford, Colchester United, Newport County, Norwich City, Plymouth Argyle, Queens Park Rangers, Reading, Southampton, Southend United, Swindon Town
  • Relegated from Second Division: Doncaster Rovers, Notts County


Of these, Bradford, Hull, Norwich, Notts, QPR, Reading, Southampton, and Swindon made the top flight. Stockport, Doncaster, Notts County and Rochdale were the first to be relegated into the Fourth Division the following season (1959–60), starting the bottom-four-team turnover tradition for the third tier. As with the Second Division, the champion and runner-up were automatically promoted; the third place was also promoted automatically beginning in 1974. Play-offs for the third promotion place were introduced in 1987. AFC Bournemouth, formerly Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic, hold the record as the club to have spent most time in this Division.

In 1992 the FA Premier League
FA Premier League
The Premier League is an English professional league for association football clubs. At the top of the English football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with The Football League. The Premier...

 started and the Football League was reduced in numbers, leading to the third tier being renamed the Football League Second Division
Football League Second Division
From 1892 until 1992, the Football League Second Division was the second highest division overall in English football.This ended with the creation of the FA Premier League, prior to the start of the 1992–93 season, which caused an administrative split between The Football League and the teams...

. See Football League One
Football League One
Football League One is the second-highest division of The Football League and third-highest division overall in the English football league system....

 for subsequent third-tier history.

Winners of the Third Division


See List of winners of English Football League One and predecessors for winners before 1992 and List of winners of English Football League Two and predecessors for winners afterwards.