Midland Football League (1889)

The Midland Football League was a semi-professional football league in England.[1] It acted as a feeder league to the Football League for many years before merging with the Yorkshire League in 1982 to form the Northern Counties East League.

Midland Football League
Country England


Founded in 1889, only one year after the Football League, the Midland League was the second league for professional clubs to be formed. Eleven clubs participated in the first season, 1889–90, four of whom (including the first champions, Lincoln City) would go on to achieve Football League status. The eleven founder members came from six counties.

In the early days of the Midland League, a number of the champion clubs were elected to the Football League, and in return, League clubs who failed to be re-elected were often placed in the Midland League. Lincoln City and Doncaster Rovers both had a number of spells in both the Football League and Midland League.[2]

With the larger professional clubs becoming stronger, they looked to place their reserve side in the Midland League, Derby County being the first in 1894–95. Within less than a decade, more than half of the membership of the Midland League was made up of reserve teams.

Along with most other leagues, the Midland League closed down for the duration of World War I. When football resumed in 1919–20, the Midland League began to take on a different look. Three clubs (Chesterfield, Halifax Town and Lincoln City) joined the Football League when that organisation expanded to form a Third Division North, and the reserve sides of Football League clubs gradually left. More Midland League clubs progressed to the Football League, e.g. York City in 1929, and Mansfield Town in 1932.

Again, on the outbreak of World War II, the Midland League closed down, and resumed again in peacetime in 1945. After reaching a constitution of 24 clubs in 1946–47, the league entered a decade of stability. Peterborough United won the title for five consecutive seasons from 1955–56 to 1959–60. With most of the remaining Football League clubs reserve sides leaving in 1958, the league was reduced to a rump of just nine clubs, but was saved when the North Eastern League, a competition which had also suffered from the withdrawal of reserve sides, decided to disband, and the Midland League accepted into membership a number of north eastern sides, well to the north of its usual catchment area.

However, this lifeline was to prove short lived. A new league, the Northern Counties League, was formed in 1960 and all the former North Eastern League clubs moved to the new competition. Peterborough United were elected to the Football League (the last Midland League club to achieve this feat), and the Midland League closed down through lack of numbers.

After a single year without a Midland League, a re-formed competition entitled the Midland Counties League was formed, although common practice was still to refer to it as the "Midland League" and it is usually treated as a continuation of the former competition in reference sources. A few of the previous member clubs re-joined, with a number of new members, principally from the Central Alliance. With the formation of the Northern Premier League in 1968, the Midland League lost four of its most successful clubs, but by now the competition was a strong league again and more clubs were looking to join than the league had vacancies. To cater for this, the league formed a second division in 1975–76. This division became "Division One" while the previous clubs formed the "Premier Division". Clubs had to achieve a high level of facilities to join the Premier Division, and in the seven seasons in which the two division format was used, no clubs were actually able to move from the lower to the upper tier.

When senior football in the north of England was rationalised in 1982, the Midland League was one of those affected. The league closed down, merging with the Yorkshire League to form the Northern Counties East League as a feeder league to the Northern Premier League.

Former member clubs


League Champions

1889–90Lincoln City
1890–91Gainsborough Trinity
1891–92Rotherham Town
1892–93Rotherham Town
1893–94Burton Wanderers
1896–97Doncaster Rovers
1898–99Doncaster Rovers
1900–01Sheffield United reserves
1901–02Barnsley reserves
1902–03Sheffield Wednesday reserves
1903–04Sheffield United reserves
1904–05Sheffield United reserves
1905–06Sheffield Wednesday reserves
1906–07Sheffield United reserves
1907–08Sheffield Wednesday reserves
1908–09Lincoln City
1909–10Chesterfield Town
1910–11Grimsby Town
1911–12Rotherham County
1912–13Rotherham County
1913–14Rotherham County
1914–15Rotherham County
1915–16No competition due to World War I
1916–17No competition due to World War I
1917–18No competition due to World War I
1918–19No competition due to World War I
1919–20Chesterfield Municipal
1920–21Lincoln City
1921–22Worksop Town
1922–23Sheffield Wednesday reserves
1923–24Mansfield Town
1924–25Mansfield Town
1925–26Mexborough Athletic
1926–27Scunthorpe & Lindsey United
1927–28Gainsborough Trinity
1928–29Mansfield Town
1930–31Grimsby Town reserves
1931–32Bradford Park Avenue reserves
1932–33Grimsby Town reserves
1933–34Grimsby Town reserves
1934–35Barnsley reserves
1935–36Barnsley reserves
1936–37Barnsley reserves
1937–38Shrewsbury Town
1938–39Scunthorpe & Lindsey United
1939–40Not finished due to outbreak of World War II
1940–41Not played due to World War II
1941–42Not played due to World War II
1942–43Not played due to World War II
1943–44Not played due to World War II
1944–45Not played due to World War II
1945–46Shrewsbury Town
1946–47Grimsby Town reserves
1947–48Shrewsbury Town
1948–49Gainsborough Trinity
1949–50Nottingham Forest reserves
1950–51Nottingham Forest reserves
1951–52Nottingham Forest reserves
1952–53Nottingham Forest reserves
1953–54Nottingham Forest reserves
1954–55Notts County reserves
1955–56Peterborough United
1956–57Peterborough United
1957–58Peterborough United
1958–59Peterborough United
1959–60Peterborough United
1960–61Not played due to financial problems
1961–62Matlock Town
1962–63Loughborough United
1964–65Lockheed Leamington
1965–66Worksop Town
1966–67Gainsborough Trinity
1967–68Ilkeston Town
1968–69Matlock Town
1969–70Alfreton Town
1972–73Worksop Town
1973–74Alfreton Town
Season Premier Division First Division
1975–76Eastwood TownBrimington
1976–77Alfreton TownLong Eaton Grange
1977–78Brigg TownStaveley Works
1978–79BostonLong Eaton Grange
1979–80Belper TownArnold Kingswell
1980–81BostonBorrowash Victoria
1981–82Shepshed CharterhouseStaveley Works

Election to the Football League

The following clubs (with their league position in brackets) were elected from the Midland League to the Football League -

League Cup finals

  • Premier Division

Note - from 1968-69 to 1974-75, this competition was simply called the Midland League Cup.

Season Winners Result Runners-up Venue
1968–69Grantham3 - 2 (agg)ArnoldTwo legs
1970–71Grantham6 - 2 (agg)ArnoldTwo legs
1971–72Alfreton Town3 - 0 (agg)Worksop TownTwo legs
1972–73Alfreton TownEastwood Town
1973–74Alfreton Town3 - 1 (agg)Worksop TownTwo legs
1975–76Frickley Colliery
1976–77BostonAlfreton Town
1977–78Eastwood TownAlfreton Town
1978–79Appleby Frodingham5 - 4 (agg)Skegness TownTwo legs
1979–80Eastwood Town
1980–81Bridlington Trinity9 - 1 (agg)ArnoldTwo legs
1981–82Shepshed Charterhouse5 - 2 (agg)BostonTwo legs
  • Division One
Season Winners Result Runners-up Venue
1976–77Staveley Works
1977–78T.I. Chesterfield
1979–80Oakham United
1980–81Borrowash Victoria
1981–82Creswell Colliery6 - 5 (agg)Graham Street PrimsTwo legs


  1. "England - Midland League". rsssf.com. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
  2. "footballsite - Midland League table 1920/21". footballsite.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
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