VfL Osnabrück is a German multi-sport club in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony. It currently fields teams in basketball, gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, and tennis, but is by far best known for its football section.
The club has its origins in the coming together on 17 April 1899 of the memberships of the "wild" clubs Antipodia, Germania, and Minerva to create Fußball Club 1899 Osnabrück. This group joined Osnabrücker Ballverein 05 in 1920 to play as BV 1899 Osnabrück.
Predecessor Osnabrücker BV 05 was the product of the 1905 merger of Fußball Club Edelweiß 1902 Osnabrück and Fußball Club Alemannia Osnabrück. This club made an appearance in the quarterfinals of the regional Westdeutsche (West German) final in 1910 where they were decisively put out (2:9) by Duisburger SV.
The merger that created Verein für Leibesübungen Osnabrücker took place in 1924 when BV was joined by Spiel- und Sport Osnabrück. Prior to 1921, SuS had played as the football department of the gymnastics club Osnabrücker Turnverein 1861, created in 1914 when Fußball Club 1903 Olympia Osnabrück and Fußball Club Teutonia 1902 Osnabrück became part of TV.
Established 24 June 1902, Teutonia Osnabrück also had quarterfinal appearances in the Westdeutsche final to its credit, dropping decisions to FC München-Gladbach in 1908 (0:3), and BV Dortmund (3:4) in 1909.
VfL was formally incorporated on 8 March 1925, but part of the membership of the newly formed association soon left to create a separate side called Sportclub Rapid Osnabrück – styled after well known club Rapid Vienna. Rapid came back to the fold thirteen years later in 1938 and the re-unified club adopted the light-purple colours of the returning footballers.
After the re-structuring of German football leagues in 1933 under the Third Reich, Osnabrück played second division football until winning promotion to the Gauliga Niedersachsen (I) in 1935. They were relegated after their first campaign, but returned to the top flight in 1937, capturing the division title in the 1938–39 season. The Gauliga Niedersachsen was then split into two divisions, and in each of the following two seasons VfL took the Niedersachsen-Nord title. They went on win to the overall division title in 1940, beating Hannover 96 (3:2, 2:2), but lost their title to the same club the following year (1:1, 1:3). Their Gauliga titles in 1939 and 1940 put VfL into opening round group play for the national championship, but they were unable to advance.
After World War II, the club returned to play as 1. FSV Osnabrück but again took up their traditional name in 1946. The team played in the Oberliga Nord (I) and delivered credible performances that left them standing fourth in the league's all-time table behind well-known sides Hamburger SV, Werder Bremen, and FC St. Pauli.
The Bundesliga was formed in 1963 as Germany's new top flight professional league. The Violets did not qualify for play there and were seeded into second division Regionalliga Nord. They had opportunities to advance through the promotion rounds in five consecutive years beginning in 1969, but were unable to break through. For three decades the club remained a tier II fixture in the Regionalliga Nord (1963–74) and the 2. Bundesliga (1974–84, 1985–93). They played a single season in the Amateur Oberliga Nord (III), but only narrowly escaped relegation in 1979 when FC St. Pauli was instead sent down when they were refused a license over their financial situation. A highlight of the period was a 5:4 victory over Bayern Munich in a 1978 DFB-Pokal (German Cup) match-up.
Since 1994 the club has been part of the Regionalliga Nord (III), making cameo appearances in the 2. Bundesliga in 2000–01 and 2003–04. On the final day of their 2006–07 campaign, VfL again won promotion to second division play, and were then able to avoid being immediately sent down once more by finishing out of the relegation zone in 14th place in 2007–08.