|English Football League|
|Number of teams||72 (24 in each division)|
|Promotion to||Premier League|
|Relegation to||National League|
|Levels on pyramid||2–4|
|Domestic cup(s)||FA Cup|
|UEFA cup(s)||Europa League|
|Most successful club||Liverpool (18 titles)|
Channel 5 (Highlights only)
The English Football League (EFL) is a league competition featuring professional football clubs from England and Wales. Founded in 1888 as The Football League, the league is the oldest such competition in world football. It was the top-level football league in England from its foundation in the 19th century until 1992, when the top 22 clubs split away to form the Premier League.
The league has 72 clubs evenly divided into three divisions, which are known as the Championship, League One and League Two, with 24 clubs in each division. Promotion and relegation between these divisions is a central feature of the League and is further extended to allow the top Championship clubs to exchange places with the lowest-placed clubs in the Premier League, and the bottom clubs of League Two to switch with the top clubs of the National League, thus integrating the League into the English football league system. Although primarily a competition for English clubs, clubs from Wales – currently Newport County and Cardiff City – also take part, while in the past Swansea City, Wrexham, Merthyr Town and Aberdare Athletic have been members.
The Football League has been associated with a title sponsor since 1983. As this sponsor has changed over the years the league too has been known by various names. Starting with the 2016–17 season, it has been renamed as the English Football League.
The English Football League is also the name of the governing body of the league competition, and this body also organises two knock-out cup competitions, the EFL Cup and the EFL Trophy. The operations centre of the Football League is in Preston, while its commercial office is in London. It was formerly based in Lytham St Annes, after its original spell in Preston.
The Football League consists of 70 professional association football clubs in England and 2 in Wales. It runs the oldest professional football league competition in the world. It also organises two knockout cup competitions, the Football League Cup and Football League Trophy. The Football League was founded in 1888 by then Aston Villa director William McGregor, originally with 12 member clubs. Steady growth and the addition of more divisions meant that by 1950 the League had 92 clubs. Financial considerations led to a major shake-up in 1992 when, in a step to maximise their revenue, the leading members of the Football League broke away to form their own competition, the FA Premier League, which was renamed in 2007 as the Premier League. The Football League therefore no longer includes the top 20 clubs who belong to this group, although promotion and relegation between the Football League and the Premier League continues. In total, 136 teams have played in the Football League up to 2013 (including those in the Premier League, since clubs must pass through the Football League before reaching the former).
The Football League's 72 member clubs are grouped into three divisions: the Football League Championship, Football League One, and Football League Two (previously the Football League First Division, Football League Second Division and Football League Third Division respectively; they were renamed for sponsorship reasons). Each division has 24 clubs, and in any given season a club plays each of the others in the same division twice, once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents. This makes for a total of 46 games played each season.
Clubs gain three points for a win, one for a draw, and none for a defeat. At the end of the season, clubs at the top of their division may win promotion to the next higher division, while those at the bottom may be relegated to the next lower one. At the top end of the competition, three Championship clubs win promotion from the Football League to the Premier League, with the bottom three Premier League clubs taking their places. At the lower end, two League Two clubs lose their Football League status with relegation to the National division of the National League, while two teams from that division join League Two of The Football League in their stead.
|Division||Promoted directly||Promoted via playoffs||Relegated|
|The Championship||Top 2 clubs||One from 3rd to 6th-place finishers||Bottom 3 clubs|
|League One||Top 2 clubs||One from 3rd to 6th-place finishers||Bottom 4 clubs|
|League Two||Top 3 clubs||One from 4th to 7th-place finishers||Bottom 2 clubs|
Promotion and relegation are determined by final league positions, but to sustain interest for more clubs over the length of the season one promotion place from each division is decided according to a playoff between four clubs, which takes place at the end of the season. It is therefore possible for a team finishing sixth in the Championship or League One, or seventh in League Two, to be promoted rather than the clubs finishing immediately above them in the standings.
Since the 2004–05 season, penalties have existed for clubs entering financial administration during the season. If a club enters administration before 31 March of any given season, they will immediately be deducted 12 points; entering administration from 1 April onward will see the points deduction either held over until the end of the season (if the club finishes outside the relegation places), or applied the following season (if the club was relegated anyway). It is also required that a club exiting administration agree a Creditor's Voluntary Agreement, and pay in full any other footballing creditors. Failure to do either of these will result in a second, potentially unlimited (though in practise usually between 15 and 20) points deduction.
The other main situation in which is a club may lose points is by fielding an improperly registered or otherwise ineligible player. If a club is found to have done this, then any points earned from any match that player participated in will be deducted; the opposing club(s) do not earn any points from this, however.
The Football League organises two knock-out cup competitions: the Football League Cup (formerly called the Capital One Cup for sponsorship reasons) and the Football League Trophy (called the Checkatrade Trophy for sponsorship reasons). The League Cup was established in 1960 and is open to all Football League and Premier League clubs, with the winner eligible to participate in the UEFA Europa League. The Football League Trophy is for clubs belonging to League One and League Two of the Football League. The Football League celebrated its 100th birthday in 1988 with a Centenary Tournament at Wembley between 16 of its member clubs.
- Main article: Football League play-offs
The Football League Play-offs are used as a means of determining the final promotion place from each of the league's three divisions. This is a way of keeping the possibility of promotion open for more clubs towards the end of the season.
The format was first introduced in 1987, after the decision was made to reduce the top flight from 22 to 20 clubs over the next two seasons; initially, the play-offs involved the team finishing immediately above the relegation places in a given division and the three teams who finished immediately below the promotion places in the division below – essentially one team was fighting to keep their place in the higher division while the other three teams were attempting to take it from them. In 1989, this was changed—instead of teams from different divisions playing each other, the four teams below the automatic promotion places contested the play-offs. The first season of this arrangement saw the final being contested in home and away legs. The four teams play-off in two semi-finals and a final, with the team winning the final being promoted. Originally the semi-finals and the final were all two-legged home-and-away affairs, but from 1990 onwards the final is a one-off match. It is in this format that the play-offs continue today. A proposal to have six teams rather than four competing for the final place was defeated at the league's AGM in 2003.
1: Due to financial irregularities, Swindon were prevented from taking their place in the top division, which was awarded to the losing finalists, Sunderland.
- History of football kit by club
- The Football League official website
- RSSSF Football League archive, 1888-
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