Midland League

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 – Burton Wanderers, Derby Junction, Derby Midland, Gainsborough Trinity, Leek, Lincoln City, Notts Rangers, Rotherham Town, Sheffield Club, Staveley and Warwick County – 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.

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.

Leicester Fosse were members of the Midland League between 1891-92 and 1893-94. They were elected to the Football League in 1894 after finishing runners-up. In 1898 Leicester Fosse Reserves joined the Midland League. Loughborough were the first Leicestershire club to be crowned champions of the Midland League in 1894.

Winners and Runner-Up (1889-1900)





Lincoln City

Derby Midland


Gainsbrough Trinity

Long Eaton Rangers

Rotherham Town

Gainsborough Trinity

Leicester Fosse 11th out of 11. Loughborough 8th out of 11.

Rotherham Town

Burton Wanderers

Leicester Fosse 4th out of 13. Loughborouh 3rd out of 13.

Burton Wanderers

Leicester Fosse

Loughborough 3rd out of 11.


Stoke Swifts

Loughborough - Champions



Gainsborough Trinity


Doncaster Rovers

Glossop North End



Barnsley St Peter's

Doncaster Rovers

Ilkeston Town

Leicester Fosse Reserves 12th out of 14.



Leicester Fosse Reserves 13th out of 13

The following clubs (with their league position in brackets) were elected from the Midland League to the Football League during the Victoria era –

  • 1891–92 – Burslem Port Vale (3rd)
  • 1892–93 – Rotherham Town (1st)
  • 1893–94 – Burton Wanderers (1st) and Leicester Fosse (2nd)
  • 1894–95 – Loughborough Town (1st)
  • 1895–96 – Gainsborough Trinity (2nd) and Walsall (3rd)
  • 1897–98 – Barnsley (2nd), Burslem Port Vale (5th) and Glossop North End (9th)
  • 1898–99 – Chesterfield (4th)