A historical ranking of football clubs competing in England since organised competitive football began on a nationwide basis with the inaugural FA Cup in the 1871-72 season.
[Updated to: end of 2012-2013 season]
West Bromwich Albion
|Rank||Second Tier Clubs||Points|
Preston North End
West Ham United
Queens Park Rangers
|Rank||Third Tier Clubs||Points|
Brighton and Hove Albion
|Rank||Fourth Tier Clubs||Points|
Dagenham and Redbridge
|Rank||Non-league & Defunct Clubs
Bradford Park Avenue
Glossop North End
New Brighton Tower
Rushden and Diamonds
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The About a Ball Ranking is a points scoring system devised our statisticians to grade each league club according to their historical achievements since the beginning of organised football in this country. We felt the need for such a ranking after hearing numerous lower division chairmen claiming that their club is one of the biggest in the country and should rightfully be in the top division. However, there are only 20 places in the Premier League and therefore only 20 clubs deserve to occupy them, so we decided to find out which clubs really are sleeping giants and which are currently flying well above their historical status.
How it works
Points awarded as follows:
|Champions Cup Win||+15|
|Other European Trophy Win||+10|
|FA Cup Win||+6|
|League Cup Win||+3|
|Second Level Division Win||+3|
|Lower Division Win||+1|
|Season in top division||+2|
|Season in 2nd division||+1|
|Bonuses: Super Cup; Club Cup; Double||+1|
Notes: The scores include any points scored by a club under a former name. In cases where clubs have merged or re-formed, the new club has been awarded the points accumulated by its previous incarnations wherever there is a continuation or substantial link between the old and new clubs.
Criticisms and Improvements
There is no account taken of when the points were scored, so a team (e.g. Sunderland) could have scored a large portion of their points a long time ago in a very different era. The teams did not all join the league at the same time so founder members such as Burnley have scored their points over a much longer period of time than “new” clubs such as MK Dons. The system takes account only of on the pitch successes and not off the pitch factors such as attendance and annual budget which could indicate a big club. The About a Ball ranking could be improved (and also complicated) by including points for average attendances and annual budget/profit, dividing points totals by the number of years clubs have been in the league, or by giving less weight to points scored a long time ago. However, we are satisfied that our system accurately ranks the 92 league clubs based on historical success and identifies clubs currently under or over achieving.
It is clear that Liverpool are by far the most successful English football club ever, which was the expected result. However, their lead has been drastically reduced by Manchester United over the past two decades. There is a considerable gap to third placed Arsenal, who themselves have a comfortable margin over Aston Villa and Everton, separated by only a few points in fourth and fifth respectively. Chelsea have recently risen several places to sixth, and lead the rest of the chasing pack followed by Manchester City, who have recently overtaken Spurs, Newcastle and Sunderland.
Of the 20 clubs contesting the 2013-2014 Premier League, only 11 are historically among the top 20 English teams and are therefore competing at their correct historical level. These are the top ten in our ranking, plus West Brom. All of the historic top ten being in the current top division shows that there is a strong correlation between historic success and current strength. The other nine current Premier League members have risen above their traditional status. Seven should expect to be in the Championship and two of them, Hull City and Swansea City are currently two levels above their historical status, making them the smallest teams in the Premier League. Bournemouth and Yeovil Town in the Championship are also playing at two levels above their historical status, making them, Hull and Swansea the most over achieving teams in the league at the moment.
When we turn to underachievement, we can see a couple of big clubs in the third level of English football. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United are both fairly comfortably inside the top twenty in our ranking but have sunk to League One in recent years. There are two other clubs who are also now playing at two levels below their historical status - Bury and Portsmouth. They now find themselves in League Two, having earned enough ranking points to warrant a place in the Championship. That makes these four clubs the biggest current under achievers in the league.
All the other 29 clubs that have ever scored points under this system have been included in the study in case they ever return to league football. Of course, there’s no chance of that ever happening for many of them because they have been dissolved or disbanded over the years. Grimsby Town, Luton Town and Lincoln City, however, will be hopeful of making it back in the not too distant future. Their scores would put them in the second and third tiers of English football. It’s interesting to note that teams such as The Wanderers and Bradford Park Avenue are still statistically among the top sixty achievers in the country.
It is strictly forbidden to copy or reproduce these tables without permission. Any breach of copyright may lead to prosecution. The tables will be updated annually and any feedback on the results/corrections to data is welcome.