The exact number of clubs varies from year to year as clubs join and leave leagues, fold or merge altogether, but an estimated average of 15 clubs per division implies that more than 7,000 teams of nearly 5,300 clubs are members of a league in the English men's football league system.
As there are no official definitions of any level below 11, any references to the structure at level 12 and below should not be regarded as definitive.
The (English) Football League was created in 1888 by Aston Villa director William McGregor. It was dominated by those clubs who had supported professionalism. The twelve founding members consisted of six from Lancashire (Blackburn Rovers, Burnley, Bolton Wanderers, Accrington, Everton and Preston North End) and six from the Midlands (Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers).
The system consists of a pyramid of leagues, bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation. A certain number of the most successful clubs in each league can rise to a higher league, whilst those that finish at the bottom of their league can find themselves sinking down a level. In addition to sporting performance, promotion is usually contingent on meeting criteria set by the higher league, especially concerning appropriate facilities and finances.