The club was formed in 1940 and won the first promotion to Serie A in 1973. Since then, the club have been in the Serie A for a total of 11 seasons, reaching the best achievement in 1976 with a sixth place finish and a short run in the following season's UEFA Cup. The other three promotions in Serie A have been achieved in 1981, 1987, and 2010, the last one after two consecutive promotions — from the third league (Lega Pro) in 2009 and from Serie B in 2010, both won in the final game of the season. The club currently plays in the Serie A, promoted at the end of the 2013–14 season.
Founded in 1940, Cesena reached Serie B in 1968 and were promoted to Serie A for the first time in 1973. With players such as Pierluigi Cera and Gianluigi Savoldi, the club held its own and finished a respectable 11th place in their debut season, repeating that finish the following year. In the 1975–76 season, Cesena surprised Italy by finishing sixth and subsequently qualifying for the UEFA Cup. The glory was short-lived and they would be relegated the next year.
A second promotion to Serie A followed in 1981 and finished a respectable 10th before being relegated once more in 1983, staying in Serie B for four years. After winning a play-off, they were back in Serie A for 1987–88 and enjoyed a four-year stay, being obdurate enough to just avoid relegation in this time.
After relegation in 1991, Cesena had another chance to return to Serie A in 1994. With players such as Alessandro Teodorani, Emiliano Salvetti, Luigi Piangerelli, Aldo Dolcetti, and Dario Hübner, this was a team of considerable ability. They finished level on points with Padova, however, and lost a promotion play-off which would be a bitter blow for the club, who would suffer relegation to Serie C1 in 1997. Whilst promotion followed, a relegation play-off against Pistoiese in 2000 would see them condemned to a four-year stay in the third division.
In the 2005–06 Serie B, Cesena surprisingly emerged as contenders for promotion to Serie A, ending in sixth place and being therefore qualified for the promotion playoffs. They escaped relegation the following season, but not in 2007–08.
Cesena's first campaign in Serie C1, now rebranded Lega Pro Prima Divisione, started with former Foligno boss Pierpaolo Bisoli as new head coach. Throughout the season, Cesena quickly emerged as major contenders for direct promotion, and managed to take first place in the league on Week 33, with only one game remaining and a two-point advantage to challengers Pro Patria. On the final week of the season, Cesena's 0–0 draw with Verona, coupled with Pro Patria's 0–0 draw with Padova, gave the bianconeri the league title and direct promotion back to Serie B, after only one season in the Italian third tier. Cesena went to as 3rd in Round 33, one point behind Brescia in the 2009–10 season. Cesena earned their second consecutive promotion after a 1–0 victory at Piacenza and Brescia's 2–1 loss in Padua against Padova on 30 May 2010, finishing 19 years of absence from the Serie A. After the 2011–12 season, Cesena were relegated from the top tier to the Serie B.
Since relegation Cesena also restructured their finance, which the company merged with intermediate holding company Cesena 1940 Srl in December 2012. The company held 98.23% shares of AC Cesena SpA. After the merger, another intermediate holding company, Opera Cesena Calcio Srl represented by Igor Campedelli (from unknown investor through Romagna Sport Srl), which previously own 65.03% shares on Cesena 1940 Srl, sold 27.6% shares of Cesena to GMG Srl, a company of Giorgio Lugaresi, who already owned 30.06% shares of Cesena 1940 Srl before the merger. On 24 April 2013 Giorgio Lugaresi was re-elected as the president of A.C. Cesena SpA. After the transactions the club also recapitalized in order to avoid bankruptcy, which GMG Srl through subsidiary Cesena & Co. Scarl, held 9,499,000 out of 9,500,000 shares (99.9895%) of Cesena as of 31 March 2014. In February 2014 Cesena was under criminal investigation for the fraud in Campedelli era. Campedelli was banned 6 months in March 2013 by FIGC.
Despite the financial difficulties, Cesena won promotion back to Serie A on 18 June 2014, winning Latina in playoffs in 4–2 aggregate. In that match, most of the players (12 out of 20) were on loan from other clubs, with only 4 players were under Cesena contract in starting lineup (Renzetti, De Feudis, Garritano and Defrel) and 4 players on the bench (Alberto Iglio, Consolini, Rodríguez and Succi).
Posthumous recognition. Died in a car accident on 01999-04-12-000012 April 1999
Notable former players
This list of former players includes those who received international caps while playing for the team, made significant contributions to the team in terms of appearances or goals while playing for the team, or who made significant contributions to the sport either before they played for the team, or after they left. It is clearly not yet complete and all inclusive, and additions and refinements will continue to be made over time.