Officially formed in 1873, there is reference as early as 1859 to a 'scratch team' from St Kilda. Nicknamed the Saints, and with 'When the Saints go marchin' in' as its theme song, the club soon had a membership of 60 and played in a paddock next to the present St Kilda Bowling Club. St Kilda became one of the original members of the Victorian Football Association in 1877.
While form has often been inconsistent, supporters have largely remained loyal. In 1966 the side won its first and only premiership flag by one point against Collingwood, and was a narrow runner-up to Hawthorn in 1971. Unable to sustain this form in the long run, it was not until 1997 that the team again reached the Grand Final, losing to the Adelaide Crows.
The club has been plagued by infighting and financial difficulties since its inception. Nevertheless, many great players have donned the red, white and black guernsey. St Kilda is second only to South Melbourne Football Club/Sydney Swans in Brownlow Medal success: Colin Watson (1925), Brian Gleeson (1957), Neil Roberts (1958), Verdun Howell (1959), Ian Stewart, (1965, 1966), Ross Smith (1967), Tony Lockett (1987) and Robert Harvey (1997, 1998). The team has had a number of talented coaches, including Ansell Clark, Alan Killigrew, Alan Jeans, Darrell Baldock, Ken Sheldon and Stan Alves. Lindsay Fox, trucking magnate and former St Kilda player, restructured the club in the early 1980s. After being based since its beginnings at the Junction Oval, the club moved to Moorabbin in 1964, playing home games at Waverley Park from 1992 and Docklands Stadium from 2000. St Kilda finished third on the league table at the end of the 2004 season but narrowly missed a Grand Final berth after losing the preliminary final to Port Adelaide by one goal.