An overview of significant moments in The Football League's history.


Professionalism legalised.
2nd March – William McGregor sends a letter to organise a meeting in London, at which 10 clubs agree to form The Football League.
17th April (Manchester) - Football League founded with 12 founder members.
Preston North End (aka The Invincibles) become first club to win League Championship. John Goodall becomes football’s first superstar scoring 20 goals in 21 league games for the club.
First professional black footballer in The Football League as Rotherham Town sign goalkeeper Arthur Wharton.
First colour clash in English football after the admission of Sunderland led to a clash with Wolves as both had red and white stripes. From 1891 all clubs had to have a set of white shirts available if needed.
The subject of crowd disorder first discussed by The Football League Management Committee. Throwing mud or stones at referee is commonest form of crowd trouble.
Penalty kicks introduced and first one in The Football League was awarded to Wolves and scored by Billy Heath at Molyneux against Accrington on 14th September.
The 'Lady' trophy first presented to winners of The Football League Championship (Everton).
Walter Bowman, born and raised in Canada, of Swiss heritage, becomes the first foreign player in Football League history, for Accrington in January.
Second Division formed as The Football League expands to 28 clubs.
Accrington become the first club to resign from the Football League.
Creation of the retain-and-transfer system that tied players to clubs.
Former League treasurer, Preston North End manger and Chairman Major William Sudell sent to prison for embezzlement (with the monies used to fund the club). He was the manager of the PNE ‘Invincibles’ team and his name is on the Championship trophy.
Automatic promotion and relegation introduced (two up and two down) after suggestions of wrong-doing using the previous format of Play-Off test matches. Bolton and The Wednesday were relegated from the First Division and Man City and Glossop North End came up.
Darwen concede a record 141 league goals in one season.
Loughborough set the record for fewest league wins in a season as they pick up just one victory, a 2-1 home win against Burton United.
Maximum wage introduced at £4 per week. It was a comfortable living wage – twice the average wage of a skilled tradesman.
The Football League becomes a Limited Company with clubs becoming shareholders.
Alf Common becomes the first £1000 footballer when he is transferred from Sunderland to Newcastle United – only six months after having also set a new transfer record of £520 when he joined Sunderland from Sheffield United.
League increased to 40 clubs.
The Footballers’ Battalion formed. The 17th and 23rd Middlesex regiments would go on to see action on the Somme. In October 2010 The Football League unveiled a memorial in their honour in the French village of Longueval near where they fought.
Following four year break during WWI, league restarts with 44 clubs on 30th August with packed grounds.
Introduction of a Third Division with expansion to 66 clubs.
Expansion to 86 clubs with introduction of regional Divisions (Division Three North and Division Three South).
The first Football Pools coupons distributed to supporters outside Old Trafford.
Expansion to 88 clubs.
New offside law introduced that transforms goal scoring rates.
Huddersfield Town become the first club to claim a hat-trick of League titles (1923/24, 1924/25 and 1925/26). The first two were under legendary manager Herbert Chapman.
The BBC broadcast the first football match live on radio on January 22nd. Henry Wakelam provides the running commentary during the First Division match between Arsenal and Sheffield United.
Dixie Dean takes advantage of offside rule change to plunder a record 60 goals for Everton in the 1927/28 season, beating the tally Middlesbrough’s George Camsell had got the season before by one.
David Jack becomes the first £10,000+ player when he moved from Bolton Wanderers to Arsenal.
Arsenal and Chelsea become the first teams to play games with shirt numbers on 25th August.
The record for the lowest known attendance is set as 469 people watch Thames v. Luton Town in Division Three South on 6th December.
Most goals ever scored in a game - 17 - as Tranmere Rovers thrash Oldham Athletic 13-4 on 26th December in a Division Three North match.
Luton Town’s Joe Payne sets the record for the most number of goals scored by a player in a league game as het nets 10 times against Bristol Rovers on 13th April. That same season Bunny Bell had got nine for Tranmere Rovers and Ted Drake had got seven for Arsenal.
The Pools war. The League goes into battle against the Pools Companies and cancels the fixture list with clubs being telephoned late on Fridays to be told who they would be playing. It ends in farcical circumstances with crowds dwindling. It takes a further 20 years for football League to achieve copyright in fixture lists.
Compulsory numbering of player shirts in The Football League introduced.
League suspended in September due to WWII after just three games of the 1939/40 season.
Arthur Rowley turns professional at WBA. He retires 21 years later after amassing a record 433 league goals in 619 appearances.
Doncaster Rovers set the record for the most number of wins in a season, winning 33 times as they win the Division Three North title.
The record crowd for a Football League match (regular season) is set at Old Trafford as 83,260 watched Manchester United v Arsenal in Division One on 17th January 1948.
Record season admissions of 41,244,295 achieved for season 1948/49.
The Football League expands from 88 to 92 clubs.
White ball used for the first time.
First floodlit Football League game - Portsmouth v Newcastle United at Fratton Park.
Manchester City’s Bert Trautmann crowned FWA Footballer of the Year - the first foreigner to win the award. Former Nazi POW turned hero whose story exemplified football's ability to integrate people and effect positive change in attitudes.
Alan Hardaker is appointed Secretary of The Football League. He continued to work for The League through to his sudden death in 1980.
Divisions Three North and South become Divisions Three and Four.
Everton install the first undersoil heating system in English football.
League Cup launched. Inaugural final won by Aston Villa over two legs.
First ever live Football League match shown on TV - Blackpool v Bolton Wanderers.
18th January: Abolition of football's maximum wage (£20 a week).
‘Retain and transfer’ system changed to just a transfer system after a case at the High Court brought by George Eastham over his transfer from Newcastle United to Arsenal.
Division Four winners Peterborough United set a new record of 134 for the number of League goals scored in a season. Striker Terry Bly remains the last player to score over 50 League goals in a season.
First ever six-figure transfer of a player involving an English club after Man City sell Denis Law to Torino for £100,000.
‘The Big Freeze’ severely disrupts the fixture schedule. The Pools Panel meets for the first time because so many matches were postponed.
Bradford Park Avenue’s Jim Fryatt scores the fastest ever league goal after just four seconds against Tranmere Rovers on 24th April.
Match Of The Day makes its debut on BBC2 - Liverpool beat Arsenal 3-2 in the first match highlighted.
‘Football League Review’ magazine launched (initially titled ‘Soccer Review’).
Substitutions introduced - one allowed per game for injuries. Keith Peacock of Charlton becomes the first Football League player to come on as a substitute on 21st August 1965 in a Division Two match against Bolton Wanderers.
Substitution allowed for any reason.
Alan Ball becomes the first £100,000 player to move between two English clubs when he joins Everton from Blackpool.
The first game broadcast in colour is shown on Match of the Day as Liverpool play West Ham United at Anfield in Novemer.
Three up and three down promotion and relegation introduced.
The first Football League game on a Sunday is played – a Division Two match between Millwall and Fulham at The Den. It attracted 15,143 – their biggest home crowd of the season. Millwall’s Brian Clark scored the first ever league goal on a Sunday.
Goal difference replaces goal average.
Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest go 42 league games without defeat as they set a new Football League record.
Trevor Francis becomes football’s first player to be transferred for one million pounds (Birmingham to Nottingham Forest) in February.
Liverpool become first club in Football League to carry a sponsor on their shirts (Hitachi).
Three points for a win introduced.
QPR become the first side to install an artificial surface in June 1981. Made by Omniturf , the first match to be played on the new surface was QPR v Luton Town on 1st September. Luton became the second team to install such a pitch (with Preston North End and Oldham Athletic being the only other clubs to have ever done so).
League Cup becomes the first major competition to bear the name of a sponsor under an agreement with the Milk Marketing Board – renamed the ‘Milk Cup’.
Football League announces a title sponsor for the first time – Canon.
The Football League Trophy is launched (under its then title the Associate Members Club – reflecting the fact that clubs in divisions three and four were associate rather than full members of The Football League).
York City become the first team to reach 100 points in a season as they win Division Four with 101 points. In the 32 years since three points for a win was introduced this has only been achieved 10 times.
56 people die at Bradford’s Valley Parade in the worst fire disaster in English football history. The club had received the Football League Division Three Trophy prior to the match.
The Football League and PFA launch ‘Football in the Community’, the first football community organisation in world football.
Automatic promotion/relegation with Football Conference introduced.
Play-Offs (promotion and relegation) introduced.
Two substitutes per team permitted.
Tony Cottee and Paul Gascoigne become England’s first £2m players.
Arsenal deny Liverpool the title as Michael Thomas scores one of the most famous League goals ever with the last kick of the game at Anfield.
Taylor Report published, including recommendations that all major stadia convert to an all-seater model. It is the catalyst for the transformation of the architecture of English football and the eventual decline of hooliganism.
First Division breaks away to form Premier League - 70 clubs remain in The Football League.
The Football league expanded to 72 clubs.
Peter Shilton of Leyton Orient becomes first player in the world to play 1,000 league games in game against Brighton.
The record for the most league defeats in a season is set as Doncaster Rovers lose 34 times in Division Three. Doncaster Rovers also hold the record for the most league wins in a season (33).
Wycombe Wanderers score twice against Peterborough United without the opposition touching the ball as Jamie Bates and Jermaine McSporran score within nine seconds of each other either side of half time.
Football League TV deal with ITV Digital collapses.
Football League introduces ‘Sporting Sanctions’ – a mandatory deduction of 10 points for any club using any insolvency process to reduce debt.
League 2 clubs introduce the Salary Cost Management Protocol, limiting expenditure on player salaries to 60% of turnover.
AFC Bournemouth’s James Hayter scores the faster ever league hat-trick as he gets three goals in two minutes and 20 seconds against Wrexham.
Football League rebranded - Divisions One, Two and Three renamed the Championship, League 1 and League 2.
The Football League introduces football’s first Fit and Proper Persons Test for club shareholders and directors.
Reading set a new record for the most points in a season (three points for a win) - 106 (Championship).
Highest attendance for a promotion Play-Off match and for a League match recorded when 86,703 watch the Championship Final at Wembley between Bristol City and Hull City.
The Football League launches social media accounts on Twitter to engage directly with fans.
Football League reaches agreement with HMRC giving it access to clubs’ tax affairs to ensure that they are up to date.
League agrees current broadcast deal with Sky Sports.
Huddersfield Town set a new Football League record of 43 League game unbeaten.
The Football League introduces Financial Fair Play.