German football was, from its beginnings, divided into regional associations, which carried out their own championship, which often pre-dated the national German championship. With the interception of the later in 1903, the former became qualifying tournaments for it but these regional championships still held a high value for the local clubs. These regional championships were:Southern German football championship - formed in 1898
Brandenburg football championship - formed in 1898
Central German football championship - formed in 1902
Western German football championship - formed in 1903
March football championship - existed from 1903 to 1911
Northern German football championship - formed in 1906
South Eastern German football championship - formed in 1906
Baltic football championship - formed in 1908
All this regional championships were suspended with the rise of the Nazis to power in 1933. At the end of the Second World War, some resumed, now in league format. Others completely disappeared, like the Baltic championship, as the territories they were held in were not part of Germany any more. With the South West German football championship, a new regional competition also appeared in 1945. Ultimately, with the formation of the Fußball-Bundesliga, all this regional championships ceased altogether.
When the Western German championship was established in 1903, the region of Western Germany (German: Westdeutschland) was politically divided into three territories, the first three being part of the Kingdom of Prussia:Hesse-Nassau, northern parts only, from 1906
Rhine Province northern parts only
Province of Westphalia
Principality of Lippe
With the defeat of the German Empire in 1918 and the formation of a Republic, the former Kingdoms and Principalities became states. For the two Prussian provinces, this only meant that the Kingdom was replaced with the Free State of Prussia, while the Principality was transformed into the Free State of Lippe.
On 23 October 1898, the Rheinischer Spielverband was formed, initially without the clubs from the region around Kassel, who moved across in 1906. In 1900, the Rheinisch-Westfälischen Spielverband was formed, which, in 1907, was renamed Westdeutscher Spielverband.
The Western German football championship was first contested in 1903 and won by the Cölner FC 1899. It consisted of three clubs, one each from Essen, Cologne and Mönchengladbach, then spelled München-Gladbach, and was determined in a group stage with home-and-away games. The winner of this first competition did not take part in the first edition of the national German championship.
To qualify for the Western German championship, a club had to take out the title in its regional competition or league. As more football clubs were formed in Germany, the number of leagues increased and thereby also the numbers of clubs taking part in the Western championship.
The second edition was played out in the same modus and its champion was permitted to enter the national finals for the first time. A round of deciders was necessary to determine the Western champion as all three clubs sat on equal points. In 1906, the championship was expanded to four clubs with a decider once more being necessary to determine the champion.
In 1907, the system to determine the Western champion was altered to a knockout modus with six clubs participating, increased to seven for the following year and eight in 1909. The championship continued to operate as a knockout competition in the following years, and, in 1913, Duisburger SV became the first club from the west to reach a national German final, losing 3-1 to VfB Leipzig, who thereby won a record third German championship. The Duisburger SV in turn was an early powerhouse of western football, continuing to win regional championships up until the late 1920s.
The last pre-First World War season, 1914, saw a return to the finals being played as a league with home-and-away games. Five clubs were meant to compete but Düsseldorfer SV was deemed to have been determined to late as local champions and it was barred from participating.
In 1914-15, football in Germany had come to an almost complete halt. As it became clear, that the war would last longer than anticipated, local competitions restarted in 1915. In most regions of Germany, like the South, the championships were restarted from 1915 onwards but in the West, this was not so. A Western German Championship was not played again until 1920.
As a consequence of the lost war, a strip of land along the German - Belgian border was awarded to the later, with the cities of Eupen and Malmedy becoming part of Belgium. These were the only territorial changes within the area of the Western championship.
The Western German championship was restarted in 1920 with eight clubs in a knockout system. The eight clubs represented the following regions:Berg/Mark
The following year, a return to a five-team group stage was made to determine the champion. In 1922, this was expanded to six clubs.
Western German football took a very different approach to its football championships from 1922 to 1924, expanded the local competitions to last over two years. The German championship still being an annual event, a Western championship was nevertheless needed in order to determine the club who would participate in the national finals. The seven top-of-the-table sides at the time therefore played a knockout competition to do so in 1923, something of an oddity. The 1924 championship, with seven clubs and a single round of games in a league format, was the proper Western German championship for 1922-24.
In 1925, a seven-team league was once more employed to determine the champion. The German championship had now been enlarged to sixteen clubs and for the West this meant, it could send three clubs to the national finals from now on.
Until 1928, the format of the Western championship did not change, but in 1929, the championship was enlarged to eight clubs in two groups of four. The two top-teams in each group then moved on to a four-team finals group. All games were played as single round, not home-and-away. This system remained in place until 1931.
In 1932 and 1933, eight clubs played in a knockout format once more. It was after this last edition of the Western championship, that the first German title went to the West, when Fortuna Düsseldorf beat FC Schalke 04 3-0. After 30 years of little national success, the clubs from the west, led by Schalke, would dominate the German championship from now on.
The Western German championship was replaced with four regional Gauligen by the Nazis in 1933, a quarter of the 16 new tier-one football leagues in the country. In the era that followed, the clubs from Western Germany saw a fast improvement in their performance, taking out twelve national championships until 1963.
After the end of the Second World War, Germany remained divided until 1991 and the new Oberliga West, formed in 1947, covered most of the heartland of the old Western German championship, being considered the successor to the later. The region of northern Hesse became part of the new Oberliga Süd instead, while the southern parts of the Rhine province became part of the new state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the Oberliga Südwest.
German champions in bold:1 From 1950 onwards, München-Gladbach was spelled as Mönchengladbach.
2 From 1920 onwards, Cöln was spelled as Köln.
3 From 1926 onwards, Cassel was spelled Kassel.
4 Not an official championship.
The Oberliga West, formed in 1947, is considered to be a continuation of the Western German football championship. It only included teams from the newly formed state of North Rhine-Westphalia and was disbanded with the introduction of the Fußball-Bundesliga in 1963. This event marked the end of the Western German football championship.
Source: "Oberliga West". Das deutsche Fussball-Archiv. Retrieved 2008-01-09. Bold denotes team went on to win German championship.