- Football League Third Division
From the 1992–93 to the 2003–04 season, the Football League Third Division was the third-highest division of The Football League and the fourth-highest division in the overall English football league system. Before that it was the third division overall, but that ended with the creation of the Premier League prior to the start of the 1992–93 season. The Football League Fourth Division was abolished altogether and the Third Division took its place.
The Third Division was renamed as Football League Two prior to the start of the 2004–05 season. The corresponding place of the original Third Division, however, is Football League One, also since 2004.
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.
- Brentford F.C.
- Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
- Bristol Rovers F.C.
- Crystal Palace F.C. (initial champions in 1920–21)
- Exeter City F.C.
- Gillingham F.C.
- Grimsby Town F.C.
- Luton Town F.C.
- Merthyr Town F.C.
- Millwall F.C.
- Newport County A.F.C.
- Northampton Town F.C.
- Norwich City F.C.
- Plymouth Argyle F.C.
- Portsmouth F.C.
- Queens Park Rangers F.C.
- Southend United F.C.
- Swansea Town F.C.
- Swindon Town F.C.
- Watford F.C.
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 tier being renamed the Football League Second Division. See Football League One for subsequent third-tier history.
As the basement flight
Essentially substituting for the Football League Fourth Division, the new Third Division from 1992 to 2004 was the basement level of League football. Fallen giants to have passed through the bottom League flight Third Division and recovered include Preston North End, Huddersfield Town, Notts County, Blackpool, and Cardiff City. Third Division members who went all the way to the Premier League include Fulham, Wigan Athletic, Hull City, Swansea and Blackpool. Automatic promotion and relegation with the Football Conference was continued as with the Fourth Division as noted below.
Promotions and Relegations from the Football Conference
Season Out from Third Division In from Football Conference 1992-93 Halifax Town Wycombe Wanderers 1993-94 Northampton Town finished in bottom place but was not relegated due to Kidderminster Harriers not meeting League stadium criteria. 1994-95 Exeter City finished in bottom place but was not relegated due to Macclesfield Town not meeting League stadium criteria. 1995-96 Torquay United finished in bottom place but was not relegated due to Stevenage Borough not meeting League stadium criteria. 1996-97 Hereford United Macclesfield Town 1997-98 Doncaster Rovers Halifax Town 1998-99 Scarborough Cheltenham Town 1999-2000 Chester City Kidderminster Harriers 2000-01 Barnet Rushden & Diamonds 2001-02 Halifax Town Boston United 2002-03 Exeter City
Yeovil Town (Champions)
Doncaster Rovers (Play-Off Winners)
2003-04 Carlisle United
Chester City (Champions)
Shrewsbury Town (Play-Off Winners)
For further history to present day, see Football League Two.
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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