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Men's football

Football is the most popular sport in the Netherlands. It was introduced to the Netherlands in 1879 by a 14-year-old boy, Pim Mulier, who founded Haarlemsche Football Club. Many clubs followed, including current top-tier professional clubs as Sparta Rotterdam (1888), Ajax Amsterdam(1900), Feyenoord Rotterdam (1908) and PSV Eindhoven (1913).

Ten years after the first club was founded, the precursor to the KNVB was created: the Netherlands Football and Athletics Association (NVAB). In 1895, after the athletes had separated, the name changed into Netherlands Football Assocation. It joined FIFA in 1904 as one of the founding members alongside the Football Associations of France, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Another name-change followed a few decades later. To mark the Football Association’s 40th anniversary in 1929, it behoved Queen Wilhelmina to award the 'royal' predicate to the organisation. Thus, the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) was born.

— The early years of professional football in the Netherlands

Professional football

A major landmark in Dutch football history came in the early 1950s with the introduction of professional football. The first professional game was played between Alkmaar '54 and SC Venlo on 14 August 1954. 

Other memorable moments in KNVB history include the first match of the Dutch national team in 1905 and the European title in 1988. Another historic year was 1971, when women's football officially joined the KNVB. Eight years later, girls were also allowed to participate. The Netherlands and Germany are the only countries to have won both the men's and the women's European Championship.

— Ajax Amsterdam are the most successful Dutch side

Men's competitions

The highest level in Dutch football is now known as the Eredivisie (English: Honorary Division). The reigning champions are Ajax Amsterdam. There is a relegation and promotion system with the second level in Dutch football, the Eerste Divisie (First Division, named Keuken Kampioen Divisie). The third level is the Tweede Divisie (Second Division). Below that are two amateur divisions: the the Derde Divisie (Third Division), formerly Topklasse, and the Hoofdklasse. 

Another remarkable development has been the tremendous growth in membership over the years. In 1889, the newly founded Football Association had 250 members. Forty years later, the number had exploded to more than 65,000. In 1978, the KNVB became the first sports association in the Netherlands to pass the legendary one million membership mark. In 2015, the count stood at 1,227,157 members, the highest number so far.

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