Following the legalisation of professional football by the Football Association in 1885, the English Football League was established in 1888, after a series of meetings initiated by Aston Villa director William McGregor. At the end of the 1888–89 season, Preston North End were the first club to be crowned champions after completing their fixtures unbeaten.
Representing the first fully professional football competition in the world the league saw its early years dominated by teams from the North and Midlands, where professionalism was embraced more readily than in the South. Its status as the country's pre-eminent league was strengthened in 1892, when the rival Football Alliance was absorbed into the Football League. Former Alliance clubs comprised the bulk of a new Second Division, from which promotion to the top level could be gained. It was not until 1931 that a Southern club were crowned champions, when Herbert Chapman's Arsenal secured the title. Arsenal scored 127 goals in the process, a record for a title-winning side (though runners-up Aston Villa scored one goal more, a record for the top division).
Rules stipulating a maximum wage for players were abolished in 1961. This resulted in a shift of power towards bigger clubs. Financial considerations became an even bigger influence from 1992, when the teams then in the First Division defected to form the FA Premier League. This supplanted the Football League First Division as the highest level of football in England, and due to a series of progressively larger television contracts, put wealth into the hands of top flight clubs in a hitherto unprecedented manner. The first five champions in the Premier League era - Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United - had all won the title at least once prior to 1992. Leicester City were crowned champions for the first time in 2016, becoming the first (and to date only) team to win the Premier League without having previously won the First Division.
All the clubs which have ever been crowned champions are still in existence today and all take part in the top four tiers of the English football league system - the football pyramid. Sheffield Wednesday are the only club who have ever changed their name after winning a league title having been known as The Wednesday for the first three of their four titles.
Manchester United have won 20 titles, the most of any club. United's rivals Liverpool are second with 18. Liverpool dominated during the 1970s and 1980s, while United dominated in the 1990s and 2000s under Sir Alex Ferguson. Arsenal are third; their 13 titles all came after 1930. Everton (nine) have enjoyed success throughout their history, and both Aston Villa (seven) and Sunderland (six) secured the majority of their titles before World War I. Huddersfield Town in 1924–26, Arsenal in 1933–35, Liverpool in 1982–84 and Manchester United in 1999–2001 and 2007–09 are the only sides to have won the League title in three consecutive seasons.