The Football League was founded in 1888 by Aston Villa director William McGregor. It originally consisted of a single division of 12 clubs (Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke (now Stoke City), West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers), known as The Football League. When the League admitted additional members from the rival Football Alliance in 1892, it was split into two divisions.
For the next 100 years, the First Division was the top professional league in English football. Then, in 1992 the 22 clubs making up the First Division elected to resign from the Football League and set up the Premier League. The Football League was consequently re-organised, with the Second, Third and Fourth Divisions now renamed the First, Second and Third respectively. Thus, the First Division, while still the top level of the Football League, now became the second level of the entire English football league system.
Liverpool were the most frequent winners of the First Division when it was the top flight of English football, winning it a total of 18 times.