Football League Third Division North

The Third Division North of the Football League was a tier in the English football league system from 1921 to 1958. It ran in parallel with the Third Division South with clubs elected to the League or relegated from a higher division allocated to one or the other according to geographical position. Some clubs in the English Midlands shuttled between the Third Division North and the Third Division South according to the composition of the two leagues in any one season.

Football League Third Division North
Organising bodyThe Football League
Other club(s) fromWales
Number of teams20 (1921–1923)
22 (1923–1950)
24 (1950–1958)
Level on pyramid3
Promotion toSecond Division
Domestic cup(s)FA Cup
League cup(s)Third Division North Cup
(1933–1939, 1945–1946)
Last championsScunthorpe United
Most championshipsDoncaster Rovers,
Lincoln City (3 titles)

The Third Division South had been created in 1921 from the Third Division formed the previous year made up of 22 teams drawn mostly from the Southern League. It was decided that this gave the Football League overall too much of a southern bias, so the Third Division North was created in 1921-22 to redress the balance. Stockport County had finished bottom of the Second Division at the end of the 1920-21 season, and they were relegated into this new division, where they joined Grimsby Town who had spent a season in the Third Division after relegation from the Second Division in 1919-20. As there was no northern equivalent of the Southern League, the remaining 18 teams came from several regional leagues: the Midland League, the Central League, the North Eastern League, the Lancashire Combination and the Birmingham & District League.

The original 20 teams were: Stockport County, Darlington, Grimsby Town, Hartlepools United, Accrington Stanley, Crewe Alexandra, Stalybridge Celtic, Walsall, Southport, Ashington, Durham City, Wrexham, Chesterfield, Lincoln City, Barrow, Nelson, Wigan Borough, Tranmere Rovers, Halifax Town and Rochdale. The division was extended by a further two teams in 1923 to take the total to 22, and for the 1950-51 season the division was expanded to 24 clubs, with Scunthorpe & Lindsey United and Shrewsbury Town joining.[1][2]

Only one promotion place was available each season from the Third Division North to the Second Division, which made it very difficult to win promotion. Eight teams, Accrington Stanley, Barrow, Crewe Alexandra, Halifax Town, Hartlepools United, Rochdale, Southport and Wrexham, were ever-present in the division for the 30 years of its existence. Of the teams that played in Third Division North, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Derby County were later English football champions.

Its final season was 1957–58, after which the North and South sections were merged to form a single Third Division and the Fourth Division. The top 12 clubs in Division Three North, except for the Champions Scunthorpe United, went into the new Third Division, and the bottom 12 clubs went into the Fourth Division.