The Central League

Last updated

The Central League
CountryFlag of England.svg  England Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales
Number of teams23
Current champions Milton Keynes Dons

The Central League is a football league for reserve teams, primarily from the English Football League. For sponsorship purposes, it was branded as the Final Third Development League until the 2015/16 season. [1]


The league was formed in 1911 and in its early years consisted of a mix of first teams and reserve teams. However, when the Football League Third Division North was created in 1921, all the first teams in the Central League became founder members.

Since then, the league has been for reserve teams only, and eventually expanded to include virtually every professional team in the South, Midlands and North of England. Southern teams used to play in the Football Combination. In recent years, the Premier Reserve League was created for reserve sides of Premier League teams, and so the Central League's membership has been reduced.

From the 2006/07 season the FA Premier Reserve League was restricted to the reserve sides of FA Premier League clubs. This meant that the reserve sides of Championship clubs rejoined the Central League.

Teams are not promoted to the Premier Reserve League based on their final league position, but on the league position of their respective clubs' senior teams. If the senior team is promoted to the Premier League, then the reserve team is promoted to the Premier Reserve League and replaced by the reserve teams of the relegated clubs.

It was announced on 31 December 2013 that the Central League secured a sponsorship arrangement with Final Third Sports Media, and was known as the 'Final Third Development League' with immediate effect for two seasons. [1]

On 11 June 2014, it was announced that the league would expand to become a national competition by running a division in the south of the country for the 2014/15 season for the first time. [2]



1911–12 Lincoln City
1912–13 Manchester United
1913–14 Everton
1914–15 Huddersfield Town
1919–20 Blackpool
1920–21 Manchester United
1921–22 Sheffield United
1922–23 West Bromwich Albion
1923–24 West Bromwich Albion
1924–25 Huddersfield Town
1925–26 Huddersfield Town
1926–27 West Bromwich Albion
1927–28 Stoke City
1928–29 Sheffield Wednesday
1929–30 Aston Villa
1930–31 Huddersfield Town
1931–32 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1932–33 West Bromwich Albion
1933–34 West Bromwich Albion
1934–35 West Bromwich Albion
1935–36 Derby County
1936–37 Leeds United
1937–38 Everton
1938–39 Manchester United
1945–46 Sheffield Wednesday
1946–47 Manchester United
1947–48 Newcastle United
1948–49 Burnley
1949–50 Blackpool
1950–51 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1951–52 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1952–53 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1953–54 Everton
1954–55 Bolton Wanderers
1955–56 Manchester United
1956–57 Liverpool
1957–58 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1958–59 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1959–60 Manchester United
1960–61 Sheffield Wednesday
1961–62 Burnley
1962–63 Burnley
1963–64 Aston Villa
1964–65 Blackburn Rovers
1965–66 Sheffield United
1966–67 Blackburn Rovers
1967–68 Everton
1968–69 Liverpool
1969–70 Liverpool
1970–71 Liverpool
1971–72 Derby County
1972–73 Liverpool
1973–74 Liverpool
1974–75 Liverpool
1975–76 Liverpool
1976–77 Liverpool
1977–78 Manchester City
1978–79 Liverpool
1979–80 Liverpool
1980–81 Liverpool
1981–82 Liverpool
1982–83 West Bromwich Albion
1983–84 Liverpool
1984–85 Liverpool
1985–86 Derby County
1986–87 Manchester City
1987–88 Nottingham Forest
1988–89 Nottingham Forest
1989–90 Liverpool
1990–91 Sheffield Wednesday
1991–92 Nottingham Forest
1992–93 Aston Villa
1993–94 Manchester United
1994–95 Bolton Wanderers
1995–96 Manchester United
1996–97 Manchester United
1997–98 Leeds United
1998–99 Sunderland
1999–00 Manchester City
2000–01 Tranmere Rovers
2001–02 Preston North End
2002–03 Sheffield United
2003–04 Stoke City
2004–05 Hull City
2005–06+ Doncaster Rovers
2006-07+ Nottingham Forest
2007-08+ Manchester City
2008-09^ Shrewsbury Town
2009-10^ Wrexham
2010-11^ Preston North End
2011-12^ Middlesbrough
2012-13~ Shrewsbury Town
2013-14~ Hull City
2014-15^ Hull City
2015–16^ Notts County
2016–17^ Walsall
2017–18^ Port Vale
2018–19~ Milton Keynes Dons
2019–20^(not completed)

+ - Three divisions, overall winner decided after a series of play-offs. ^ - Three divisions, overall winner is the team with the best points per game ratio. ~ - Two divisions, overall winner is the team with the best points per game ratio.

Championships by club

PClubNumber of Wins
1 Liverpool 16
2 Manchester United 9
3 West Bromwich Albion 7
4 Wolverhampton Wanderers 6
5 Derby County 4
Everton 4
Huddersfield Town 4
Manchester City 4
Nottingham Forest 4
Sheffield Wednesday 4
11 Aston Villa 3
Burnley 3
Hull City 3
Sheffield United 3
14 Blackburn Rovers 2
Blackpool 2
Bolton Wanderers 2
Leeds United 2
Preston North End 2
Stoke City 2
Shrewsbury Town 2
20 Doncaster Rovers 1
Lincoln City 1
Middlesbrough 1
Milton Keynes Dons 1
Newcastle United 1
Notts County 1
Port Vale 1
Sunderland 1
Tranmere Rovers 1
Walsall 1
Wrexham 1

Central League Cup

Since 1996 the league has also operated a cup competition – The Central League Cup.


1996–97 Stoke City
1997–98 Sheffield United
1998–99 Tranmere Rovers
2000–01 Sheffield United
2001–02 Doncaster Rovers
2002–03 Hull City
2003–04 Sheffield Wednesday
2004–05 Manchester United
2005–06 Shrewsbury Town
2006–07 Lincoln City
2007–08 Morecambe
2008–09 Sunderland [3]
2009–10 Leicester City [4]
2010–11 Sunderland
2011–12(not completed)
2012–13 Gateshead
2013–14 Wigan Athletic
2014–15 Middlesbrough
2015–16North: Burnley
South: Southend United
2016–17North: Wigan Athletic
South: Bristol City
2017–18North: Mansfield Town
South: Southend United
2018–19 AFC Bournemouth
2019–20(not completed)
2020–21 AFC Bournemouth

See also

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  1. 1 2 "Central League agree partnership with Final Third". The Football League. The Football League. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  2. "Final Third Development League expands to become a national competition". The Football League. The Football League. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014.