10 Oldest Clubs in the Football League


There probably hasn’t been, and most likely will never be, a sport as influential and longevous as football. With the continuous changes in modern society, one thing is pretty much constant – the English Football League. Many would argue that there is definitely something special when it comes to the tradition evolving around English clubs.

The main focus of this article is on the ten oldest clubs in the Football League – from founding dates to interesting anecdotes, let’s dive into the rich heritage of some of the most notable English clubs.

Which club is the oldest one in England?

To get to the point right away, the answer is Sheffield Football Club.

Established all the way back in 1857 by members of the Sheffield Cricket Club, Sheffield Football Club is the first one on the list. The club holds the impressive title of being the oldest football club in England, and most likely, the world. While they are currently not a part of the English Football League, their impact on the legacy of the sport is quite huge.

Which clubs are the oldest ones in the English Football League?

If the term “English Football League” seems a bit confusing, don’t worry – the answer is quite simple. 

To keep it short, try to imagine the English Football League as a pyramid that consists of several tiers. Four to be more exact – the Premier League, the Championship, League One, and League Two. The Premier League being the top of the pyramid and League Two being at the bottom of it.

Stoke City

With its roots dating back to 1863, the Potters proudly stand as one of the Football League’s oldest clubs. Originally known as Stoke Ramblers, the club underwent a merger and became known as Stoke in 1878. The club has been through a quite large number of different challenges, including a liquidation in 1908. Currently, a Championship club, Stoke City looks to get back to the Premier League after being relegated in 2018.

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Nottingham Forest

Founded in 1865 by a group of passionate shinney players in the Midlands, Nottingham Forest holds an esteemed place among the oldest clubs in the Football League. The club’s birthplace, the Clinton Arms on Shakespeare Street, marked the start of a legacy that was solidified further in 2019 when they were officially recognized as the oldest club in the Football League. 

Sheffield Wednesday

The Wednesday Football Club, as it was the official name back when the club was founded in 1867, Sheffield Wednesday carries a rich history intertwined with the Wednesday Cricket Club. Though the exact foundation date is subject to debate, historians have managed to pinpoint the date of the club’s first recorded practice match which took place in 1867. Sheffield Wednesday embraced its new name a bit over fifty years later, in 1929 to be more exact. The club gained a unique nickname, ‘The Owls,’ thanks to a gift of an owl mascot in 1912. This change also set them apart from their rivals, Sheffield United, who claimed their former moniker, ‘The Blades.’

Aston Villa

The Villans were founded in 1874. They boast an impressive stat of being the oldest club currently competing in the Premier League. Aston Villa has a history that spans over a century, but its legacy extends beyond longevity. The club was among the original founding members of not only the Football League in 1888 but also the Premier League in 1992. The fact that there are only 20 clubs in the top tier of English football shows that this stat is quite an impressive feat. 

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Founded in 1877, Wolverhampton Wanderers are one of the biggest local rivals of the aforementioned club. Although affectionately known as Wolves, the club retains its founding name, an emblem of its deep-rooted heritage. Wolves are also one of the Football League’s founding clubs. 


The Toffees were established in 1878 and have since been a name synonymous with English football heritage. Established just a year after Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton has become an institution known for its large fanbase and being an example of a proper English football club – The People’s Club. Their presence in the Premier League symbolizes their enduring legacy in English football.

Manchester City

While Manchester City might be renowned as the reigning Premier League champions, few might know that the Citizens trace their origins back to 1880. Some would argue that the current champions are yet to build their legacy, but the fact that Manchester City has been dominating the league over the past ten years has shown one thing – the club has not only a recent success but also a history that spans for over a century.


The Hornets were established all the way back in 1881 as Watford Rovers. With a modest start, Watford has transformed into a club that has experienced remarkable highs and lows, leaving a memorable mark on the footballing world.


Burnley’s heritage cannot be overlooked. Founded in 1882, this Lancashire-based club embodies the spirit and resilience of its industrial roots. Burnley’s rise to prominence, including winning the Football League in 1921, exemplifies the remarkable journey of a true footballing institution.


As mentioned in the introduction, there probably isn’t a sport that has a history as long and rich as football does. The English Football League boasts quite an impressive number of clubs that are over a century old, but the ten we just mentioned here are among the oldest ones. Compare that to some other sports, and you’ll notice that there definitely aren’t many clubs or teams that have existed for even more than 50 years, let alone over a century.