For the football league system in England as a whole, see English football league system.
English Football League
Country England.png England
Flag of Wales.gif Wales
Confederation UEFA
Founded 1888
Divisions The Championship
League One
League Two
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
League Cup
League Trophy
UEFA cup(s) Europa League
Current champions Burnley (2015–16)
Most successful club Liverpool (18 titles)
TV Sky Sports
Channel 5 (Highlights only)
Website Official website
Football current event 2018–19 English Football League

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.

Reserve teams of Football League clubs usually play in the Central League (for the Midlands and North) or the Football Combination (for the South).

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.

Play-off winners

Season Division Two Division Three Division Four
1986–87Charlton AthleticSwindon TownAldershot
1987–88MiddlesbroughWalsallSwansea City
1988–89Crystal PalacePort ValeLeyton Orient
1989–90Swindon Town1Notts CountyCambridge United
1990–91Notts CountyTranmere RoversTorquay United
1991–92Blackburn RoversPeterborough UnitedBlackpool
Season Division One Division Two Division Three
1992–93Swindon TownWest Bromwich AlbionYork City
1993–94Leicester CityBurnleyWycombe Wanderers
1994–95Bolton WanderersHuddersfield TownChesterfield
1995–96Leicester CityBradford CityPlymouth Argyle
1996–97Crystal PalaceCrewe AlexandraNorthampton Town
1997–98Charlton AthleticGrimsby TownColchester United
1998–99WatfordManchester CityScunthorpe United
1999-00Ipswich TownGillinghamPeterborough United
2000–01Bolton WanderersWalsallBlackpool
2001–02Birmingham CityStoke CityCheltenham Town
2002–03Wolverhampton WanderersCardiff CityAFC Bournemouth
2003–04Crystal PalaceBrighton & Hove AlbionHuddersfield Town
Season Championship League One League Two
2004–05West Ham UnitedSheffield WednesdaySouthend United
2005–06WatfordBarnsleyCheltenham Town
2006–07Derby CountyBlackpoolBristol Rovers
2007–08Hull CityDoncaster RoversStockport County
2008–09BurnleyScunthorpe United Gillingham
2009–10BlackpoolMillwall Dagenham & Redbridge
2010–11Swansea CityPeterborough UnitedStevenage
2011–12West Ham UnitedHuddersfield TownCrewe Alexandra
2012–13Crystal PalaceYeovil TownBradford City
2013–14Queens Park RangersRotherham UnitedFleetwood Town
2014–15Norwich CityPreston North EndSouthend United
2015–16Hull CityBarnsleyAFC Wimbledon

1: Due to financial irregularities, Swindon were prevented from taking their place in the top division, which was awarded to the losing finalists, Sunderland.

External links

EFL Championship 2020-21

Barnsley · Birmingham City · Blackburn Rovers · Brentford · Bristol City · Cardiff City · Charlton Athletic · Derby County · Fulham · Huddersfield Town · Hull City · Leeds United · Luton Town · Middlesbrough · Millwall · Nottingham Forest · Preston North End · Queens Park Rangers · Reading · Sheffield Wednesday · Stoke City · Swansea City · West Bromwich Albion · Wigan Athletic

EFL League One 2019–20

Accrington Stanley · AFC Wimbledon · Blackpool · Bolton Wanderers · Bristol Rovers · Burton Albion · Coventry City · Doncaster Rovers · Fleetwood Town · Gillingham · Ipswich Town · Lincoln City · Milton Keynes Dons · Oxford United · Peterborough United · Portsmouth · Rochdale · Rotherham United · Shrewsbury Town · Southend United · Sunderland · Tranmere Rovers · Wycombe Wanderers ·

EFL League Two 2019–20

Bradford City · Cambridge United · Carlisle United · Cheltenham Town · Colchester United · Crawley Town · Crewe Alexandra · Exeter City · Forest Green Rovers · Grimsby Town · Leyton Orient · Macclesfield Town · Mansfield Town · Morecambe · Newport County · Northampton Town · Oldham Athletic · Plymouth Argyle · Port Vale · Salford City · Scunthorpe United · Stevenage · Swindon Town · Walsall ·

Football in England
League competitions The FA Cup competitions
Premier League England (B) (C) FA Cup
Football League (Champ, 1, 2) (U-21) (U-20) Football League Cup
National League (Prem, N, S) (U-19) (U-18) FA Community Shield
Northern Premier (Prem, 1N, 1S) (U-17) (U-16) EFL Trophy
Southern League (Prem, Cen, 1S&W) List of clubs FA Trophy
Isthmian League (Prem, 1N, 1SC) List of stadiums Conference League Cup (Defunt)
(by capacity) FA Vase
List of leagues
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