The United League was founded in 1896 to provide additional mid-week fixtures for teams drawn from a number of leagues. The founder members were Arsenal and Loughborough from the Football League, Luton, Millwall and Tottenham from the Southern League, and Kettering, Rushden and Wellingborough from the Midland League. Reading joined the League for its third season, 1898-99, finishing in sixth place. They then joined a general exodus of the Southern teams, leaving the United League with a rump of Midlands teams. A number of new teams were recruited, including the recently formed Northampton Town, and the less notable Desborough Unity and Finedon Revellers. The League struggled on in this form for three seasons, before being suspended in 1902.
The League was re-formed in 1905 solely as a secondary competition for Southern League teams, although membership soon dwindled. A Northern Section was formed in 1908, with the Southern champions, New Brompton (later to become Gillingham), beating the Northern champions, Rotherham Town (later to merge with Rotherham County to form Rotherham United), 4-1 in a play-off. However, this was the final curtain and the League folded.
The following table gives the champions and runners-up:
Champions Runners-up 1896-97 United Millwall Athletic Luton Town 1897-98 United Luton Town Tottenham Hotspur 1898-99 United Millwall Athletic Southampton 1899-00 United Wellingborough Kettering 1900-01 United Rothwell Town Swifts Luton Town 1901-02 United Irthlingborough Town Rothwell Town Swifts 1902-05 United no competition 1905-06 United Watford Crystal Palace 1906-07 United Crystal Palace Brighton & Hove Alb 1907-08 United Brentford Southend United 1908-09 United New Brompton 4 Rotherham Town 1