The club was founded in 1902 as Be Quick, by the brothers 'Hollander'.The name was soon changed to Go Ahead at the request of the Dutch Football Association. The suffix Eagles was added in 1971, following a suggestion from the then coach, Barry Hughes. The eagle is the charge in the coat of arms of the city of Deventer. After almost two decades in the second division, Go Ahead won promotion to the Eredivisie at the end of the 2012–13 season, winning the promotion play-offs. The club will remain in the top division for the 2014–15 season having finished thirteenth in the 2013-14 Eredivisie.
The Go Ahead Eagles were famously the only side to defeat Ajax in any competition during the 1971–72 season, when they beat Ajax 3–2 at De Adelaarshorst in the Eredivisie. They have played in the Europacup II once, in the 1965–66 season. They lost in the first round to Celtic. Go Ahead Eagles will compete in Europe in the season 2015-16 UEFA Europa League due to the Netherlands' first place in UEFA Respect Fair Play ranking. National Fair Play winner FC Twente withdrew due to financial difficulties, making place for Go Ahead Eagles. However, they also suffered relegation after losing 2-0 on aggregate to De Graafschap in the May 2015 promotion/relegation play-offs.
Go Ahead Eagles biggest rivals are PEC Zwolle. Both clubs are located at the river IJssel, hence the name IJssel-derby. In the early years Go Ahead was the best club in the region but since the relegation to the Dutch First Division in 1987, Zwolle has won most derbies.