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Football League Third Division

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Title: Football League Third Division  
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Football League Third Division

Football League Third Division
Country England
Wales
Founded 1920
Folded 2004
Number of teams 24
Levels on pyramid 4 (1992–2004)
3 (1920–1992)
Promotion to Second Division
Relegation to Fourth Division (1958–1992)
Football Conference (1992–2004)
Domestic cup(s) FA Cup
League Cup
Football League Trophy
Last champions Doncaster Rovers
(2003–04)
Most championships Plymouth Argyle
(4 titles, including 2 in Third Division South)

The Football League Third Division was the third tier of English football in the 1920–21 season, and again from 1958 until 1992 when the formation of the Football Association Premier League saw the league become the fourth tier. In 2004 the league was renamed Football League Two.

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, in an expansion of the Football League south of Birmingham. As Cardiff City was long considered a potential entrant for the Second Division due to their FA Cup 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.

The split Third Divisions

This league continued in 1921–22 as Football League Third Division South whilst the Football League Third Division North was formed with Northern clubs, the two Divisions jointly forming the third tier.

Geographical separation was abolished in 1958 with the creation of the Football League Fourth Division.

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 started and the Football League was reduced in numbers, leading to the Third Division becoming the fourth tier. See Football League One 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.

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