How exactly did the system of promotion and relegation come about in English football? Specifically, what were the driving forces that made it such an intrinsic part of the game?

As an American soccer fan, I've had difficulty trying to dig up this history. Even though there's no pro-rel in any of the sports in the U.S., it gets talked about a lot in relation to the future of the different soccer leagues.

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    There is some interesting info in the answers to this question, although that question is the opposite of this one: it asks why the US does not use promotion and relegation, and this one asks why England does use it. Mar 3 '14 at 1:29
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    That question is part of what I'm trying to address. How did teams move between the tiers, and why were these methods implemented the way that they are? The links on that page are interesting, but they don't talk about those methods. They talk about promotion, relegation, election and re-election, playoffs and relegation battles and such. But no context is provided for why there was pro-rel or why there was an election (recent history of Glasgow's Rangers is somewhat interesting), or even why leagues assented to these changes in their team lineups at all.
    – eksortso
    Mar 5 '14 at 16:19

Here is the relevant information from the Wikipedia article on Promotion and Relegation. Originally the teams who finished bottom of the Football League (the top competition at the time) faced a process of re-election.

The new league was not universally accepted as England's top-calibre competition right away. To help win fans of clubs outside the Football League, its circuit was not closed; rather, a system was established in which the worst teams at the end of each season would need to win re-election against any clubs wishing to join.

The Football Alliance (formed 1889) merged with the Football League in 1892 but not on equal terms. Most of the Alliance teams were entered into the newly formed Football League 2nd Division. The top teams in the 2nd division then replaced the worst teams in the 1st division.

For decades, teams finishing near the bottom of The Football League's lowest division(s) faced re-election rather than automatic relegation. But the principle of promotion and relegation had been firmly established, and it eventually expanded to the football pyramid in place today.

So the system of relegation evolved from a series of mergers with other leagues, teams from the newly merged leagues would be entered into lower leagues like the 2nd or 3rd and earn promotion through their league standing rather than election to a higher league. I guess the system came about to ensure their was equality for all the teams and that teams were not gaining promotion based on how teams were voting.


I found this in Wikipedia. It's an intresting topic. Hope it helps!


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    While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. Mar 26 '14 at 15:24
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    Great find. However, what is relevant in said link that answers the question?
    – user527
    Mar 26 '14 at 18:44
  • The article explains that the old system of re-election to the league was replaced when the Football League and Football Alliance were merged together. Should the above answer be edited or should I put what I think is the relevant info to another answer?
    – RoB
    Mar 27 '14 at 11:40
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    @RoB I would have edited the answer (or currently lack thereof - although it does not reflect your efforts)...but I will be presenting you with a bounty for your efforts.
    – user527
    Mar 27 '14 at 15:19
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    @BenMiller It is worth noting that RoB awarded a bounty to this answer, and his "new" answer is an elaboration of this link-only answer. Personally, if this were worth the bounty, I would have liked to see more effort.
    – user527
    Mar 28 '14 at 13:38

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