On the first day of school in September 1898, the pupils of Collège Saint-Servais in Liège started a football club, which they called Standard of Liège in reference to Standard Athletic Club of Paris. Standard, whose official name is Royal Standard Club of Liège, was based in Cointe and Grivegnée before settling permanently in 1909 in Sclessin, an industrial neighbourhood in Liège. Standard initially joined the Belgian First League in 1909 before returning to the lower leagues a few years later. The club then gained promotion back to the top division in 1921 and has never been relegated since.
Shortly after World War II, Roger Petit, a former player and team captain, became general secretary of the club. Petit worked alongside President Henrard Paul to establish Standard among the elite of Belgian football. In 1954, Standard won their first club trophy, the Belgian Cup, which was soon followed by a first national title in 1957–58.
At European level, in the 1960s, the club reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1961–62, falling to beaten finalists Real Madrid 0–6 on aggregate, and the same stage of the Cup Winners' Cup in the year 1966–67, losing to eventual champions Bayern Munich. The 1960s and early 1970s brought much success to the club, as Standard won six Belgian First Division titles, two Belgian Cups and a League Cup.
Standard fan group, Ultras Inferno 96, celebrating their 15-year anniversary in July 2012.
Driven by the AustrianErnst Happel, Standard won the Belgian Cup again in 1981. The following year, Raymond Goethals took control of the team. Playing by the "Raymond Science" philosophy of football, the club was twice the champions of Belgium, twice winners of the Belgian Supercup (in three appearances) and reached the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1982. Standard played against Barcelona in the final at the Camp Nou on 12 May 1982, losing the match 1–2 to the Spaniards.
In 1984, these exploits were tainted by the revelation of the Standard-Waterschei Affair. Just days before the match against Barcelona, to secure the championship of Belgium and guard against injuries last minute, Standard had approached Roland Janssen, the captain of Thor Waterschei, to ensure that Thor players' threw the final game of the season. This scandal involved several players, including Eric Gerets, and coach Raymond Goethals, who fled to Portugal to escape suspension. In compensation the Standard players gave their game bonuses to the Waterschei players. Following the scandal, Standard was deprived of many of its playing staff due to long-term suspensions and it took the club several years to recover from the incident.
Following the scandal of 1982, it took 25 years before Standard won the Belgium Championship again, lifting the title on 20 April 2008. The club won the Belgian league again the following year, securing the club's tenth league title on 24 May 2009 after a home-and-away game against rivals Anderlecht. Standard won the national cup once more in 2011, defeating Westerlo 2–0 in the final at the King Baudouin Stadium on 21 May 2011. The club was bought by businessman Roland Duchatelet on 23 June 2011, who then took over English club Charlton in December 2013, creating an affiliation between the two clubs.