This article was published in 2013. The run referred to here has continued since then, of course. Additionally new information came to hand in 2017, as we researched Arsenal in 1913 to reveal new insights into how Arsenal have significant leverage over other clubs in 1919 when the election of Arsenal to the first division took place. This will be developed in full in future articles in the series “Norris at the Arsenal”.
On 30 August 1919 Arsenal lost at home to Newcastle United at the start of a league season.
But not just any old league season, for this was the first of a unique run in the first division. It constitutes the most consecutive seasons in top flight football in England. That is 87 seasons and 94 years. (The disparity between these because is due to the fact that no League football was played during the second world war from 1939 and 1946. I originally miswrote this as 96 years and was duly corrected (see below).
58 other clubs have more than one participation in top flight football and it would be tedious to produce the complete list but here’s list of those with 20 or more.
Those currently still in the first division and thus continuing their sequence this year are shown below in bold.
In the season column the numbers record the completed seasons, so for Arsenal “1920” indicates the completed season 1919/20 and the second date commemorates 2012/13. Of course assuming that the relevant clubs complete this season you can safely add on one to each of the numbers of the clubs currently in the top division.
|Arsenal||87||1920 – 2013|
|Everton||59||1955 – 2013|
|Sunderland||57||1891 – 1958|
|Liverpool||51||1963 – 2013|
|Aston Villa||44||1889 – 1936|
|Blackburn Rovers||44||1889 – 1936|
|Manchester United||38||1976 – 2013|
|Liverpool||38||1906 – 1954|
|Everton||38||1889 – 1930|
|Sheffield United||37||1894 – 1934|
|Tottenham Hotspur||35||1979 – 2013|
|Coventry City||34||1968 – 2001|
|Newcastle United||32||1899 – 1934|
|Manchester United||29||1939 – 1974|
|Tottenham Hotspur||27||1951 – 1977|
|Southampton||27||1979 – 2005|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||26||1933 – 1965|
|Aston Villa||25||1989 – 2013|
|Chelsea||25||1931 – 1962|
|Portsmouth||25||1928 – 1959|
|Huddersfield Town||25||1921 – 1952|
|Chelsea||24||1990 – 2013|
|West Bromwich Albion||24||1950 – 1973|
|Burnley||24||1948 – 1971|
|Blackpool||23||1938 – 1967|
|Bolton Wanderers||22||1936 – 1964|
|West Ham United||20||1959 – 1978|
|Derby County||20||1927 – 1953|
The fewest appearances (ie one season) record is jointly held by
- Glossop North End (1899–1900),
- Leyton Orient (1962–63),
- Northampton Town (1965–66)
- Carlisle United (1974–75),
- Swindon Town (1993–94)
- Barnsley (1997–98).
Before we conclude however there is always the issue raised of Arsenal’s election to the top league which then led to this run. This affair which included the resolution of the match fixing between Manchester United and Liverpool and Chelsea’s false demotion to the second division has been the subject of quite a few wild stories. We have gathered all the data in this article, and include within it an offer of a £100 donation to charity. If you do have anything else to say on that election it is probably worth reading the article referred to above first.