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vlrPhone / vlrFilter
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The Southern League, currently known as the Evo-Stik League South under the terms of a sponsorship agreement with Bostik Ltd, is a men's football competition featuring semi-professional clubs from the South West, 'South Central' and Midlands of England and South Wales. Together with the Isthmian League and the Northern Premier League it forms levels seven and eight of the English football league system.
The structure of the Southern League has changed several times since its formation in 1894, and currently there are 84 clubs which are divided into four divisions. The Central and South Divisions are at step 3 of the National League System (NLS), and are feeder divisions, mainly to the National League South but also to the National League North. Feeding the Premier Divisions are two regional divisions, Division One Central and Division One South, which are at step 4 of the NLS. These divisions are in turn fed by various regional leagues.Contents
Professional football (and professional sport in general) developed more slowly in Southern England than in Northern England. Professionalism was sanctioned by The Football Association as early as 1885, but when The Football League was founded in 1888 it was based entirely in the north and midlands with the County Football Associations in the South being firmly opposed to professionalism.
Woolwich Arsenal (nowadays simply Arsenal) were the first club in London to turn professional in 1891 and were one of the prime motivators behind an attempt to set up a Southern League to mirror the existing Northern and Midlands based Football League. However, this venture failed in the face of opposition from the London Football Association and Woolwich Arsenal instead joined the Football League as its only representative south of Birmingham in 1893. Additionally, an amateur league, the Southern Alliance was founded in 1892, with seven clubs from the region, but that folded after one incomplete season.Formation of the Southern League
Nonetheless, another attempt was made to form the Southern League, and this time it was successful. A competition for both professional and amateur clubs was founded in 1894 under the initiative of Millwall Athletic (now simply Millwall). Initially only one division was envisaged, but such was the enthusiasm, that eventually two divisions were formed. The sixteen founder members were:Division One Chatham Clapton Ilford Luton Town Millwall Athletic Reading Royal Ordnance Factories 2nd Scots Guards Swindon Town Division Two Bromley Chesham Maidenhead New Brompton Old St Stephen's Sheppey United Uxbridge
2nd Scots Guards withdrew before the first season started and were replaced by Southampton St Mary's. Woolwich Arsenal attempted to add their reserve side to the second division but this application was refused.Success of the Southern League
The Southern League soon became the dominant competition below The Football League in Southern and Central England. By the turn of the century a few of the Southern League sides began to rival the Football League in the FA Cup. A preview of the 1900–01 season in the Daily News described the league as "now, without a doubt, second only in importance and the strength of its clubs to the Football League itself. With the exception of Woolwich Arsenal, who prefer to remain members of the Second Division of the Football League, all the best professional teams in the South are now enrolled in the ranks of the Southern League".
Two Southern League clubs, Southampton (in 1900 and 1902) and Tottenham Hotspur (in 1901) reached the final of the FA Cup around the turn of the century. Tottenham Hotspur are the only club from below the 2nd level of English football to have won the FA Cup.
Several of the best players in England moved from the Football League to the Southern League around this time, due to the restrictions on their freedom of movement and wages implemented by the Football League between 1893 and 1901, and the failed efforts of the Association Footballers' Union (the AFU) to relax the restrictions.
The champions of the two leagues during this period met in the annual Charity Shield. Out of the six meetings the respective league champions had in the Shield, however, only one was won by the Southern League champions – Brighton & Hove Albion, in 1910, and this remains their only top level national honour.
In 1907, it accepted Bradford Park Avenue, a northern club, as a member, reflecting its senior position at the time.
In 1920, virtually the entire top division of the Southern League was absorbed by the Football League to become that league's new Third Division. A year later the Third Division was expanded and regionalised. The Third Division clubs from the previous season became the Third Division South, with the addition of the Third Division North.
Of the original founder members, six – Gillingham (formerly New Brompton), Luton Town, Millwall, Reading, Southampton and Swindon Town – are now Premier or Football League clubs.A feeder league
For the next six decades, the Football League and Southern League would exchange a limited number of clubs as a result of the older league's re-election process. From 1920 onward, the Southern League's status as a semi-professional league was firmly established.
With its clubs seeking a more regular means of advancing to the Football League, in 1979 the Southern League became a feeder to the new Alliance Premier League along with the Isthmian League and the Northern Premier League, and the top Southern clubs of the day joined the new league. In turn, the APL (renamed Football Conference in 1986 and National League in 2015) would eventually succeed in becoming a feeder to the Football League. The league lost more of its top clubs in 2004 when the Conference added two regional divisions below the existing National League, the Conference South and Conference North.
In May 2017, the FA chose the Southern League to add an additional division at step 3 as part of another restructuring in the NLS; the two Premier Divisions were set at 22 clubs each. The new division starts play in the 2018–19 season.Sponsorship
The first sponsor of the Southern League was Beazer Homes who sponsored the league from 1987–96. The sponsors after Beazer Homes to the present day are: Dr Martens (1996–2004), British Gas (2006–2009), Zamaretto (2009–2011), Evo-Stik (2011–2013), Calor Gas (2013–2014), and Evo-Stik (2014–date).Current members Premier Central
Division One Central
Division One South
AFC DunstableAylesburyAylesbury UnitedBarton RoversBedford TownBerkhamsteadBromsgrove SportingCambridge CityColeshill TownCorby TownDunstable TownEvesham UnitedKempston RoversKidlingtonNorth LeighPeterborough SportsSutton Coldfield TownThame UnitedWelwyn Garden CityYaxleyAFC TottonBarnstaple TownBidefordBlackfield & LangleyBristol Manor FarmCinderford TownCirencester TownDidcot TownHighworth TownLarkhall AthleticMangotsfield UnitedMelksham TownMoneyfieldsPaulton RoversSlimbridgeStreetThatcham TownWimborne TownWinchester CityYate TownBanbury UnitedBasingstoke TownBeaconsfield TownChesham UnitedDorchester TownFarnboroughFrome TownGosport BoroughHarrow BoroughHartley WintneyHendonKings LangleyMerthyr TownMetropolitan PolicePoole TownSalisburyStaines TownSwindon SupermarineTaunton TownTiverton TownWalton CasualsWeymouthAFC Rushden & DiamondsAlvechurchBarwellBedworth UnitedBiggleswade TownCoalville TownHalesowen TownHednesford TownHitchin TownKettering TownKing's Lynn TownLeistonLowestoft TownNeedham MarketRedditch UnitedRoyston TownRushall OlympicSt Ives TownSt Neots TownStourbridgeStratford TownTamworth Locations of the Southern Football League clubs by division
Past Southern League winners
This section lists the past winners of the Southern League.Season Division One Division Two 1894–95 Millwall Athletic New Brompton 1895–96 Millwall Athletic Wolverton L & NWR 1896–97 Southampton St Mary's Dartford 1897–98 Southampton Royal Artillery Portsmouth
For the 1898–99 season, Division Two was divided into London and South-West sections, with a playoff contested between the winners of each section.Season Division One Division Two (London) Division Two (SW) Division Two Playoff 1898–99 Southampton Thames Ironworks Cowes Thames won 3–1
For the 1899–1900 season, the league reverted to the old format.Bristol Rovers' Southern League championship-winning side from the 1904–05 season Season Division One Division Two 1899–1900 Tottenham Hotspur Watford 1900–01 Southampton Brentford 1901–02 Portsmouth Fulham 1902–03 Southampton Fulham 1903–04 Southampton Watford 1904–05 Bristol Rovers Fulham Reserves 1905–06 Fulham Crystal Palace 1906–07 Fulham Southend United 1907–08 Queens Park Rangers Southend United 1908–09 Northampton Town Croydon Common
For the 1909–10 season, Division Two was split into an 'A' section and a 'B' section, with the winners of each section contesting a play-off for the Division Two championship.Season Division One Division Two (A) Division Two (B) Division Two Playoff 1909–10 Brighton & Hove Albion Stoke Hastings & St Leonards United Stoke won 6–0
For the 1910–11 season, the league again reverted to the previous format.Season Division One Division Two 1910–11 Swindon Town Reading 1911–12 Queens Park Rangers Merthyr Town 1912–13 Plymouth Argyle Cardiff City 1913–14 Swindon Town Croydon Common 1914–15 Watford Stoke 1919–20 Portsmouth Mid Rhondda
At the end of the 1919–20 season, the majority of the clubs in the First Division moved into the new Third Division of the Football League. The Southern League was therefore split into two sections for England and Wales, with the winners of each section contesting a playoff for the Southern League championship.Season English Section Welsh Section Championship Playoff 1920–21 Brighton & Hove Albion Reserves Barry Brighton won 2–1 1921–22 Plymouth Argyle Reserves Ebbw Vale Plymouth won 3–0 1922–23 Bristol City Reserves Ebbw Vale Ebbw Vale won 2–1
For the 1923–24 season, the league was split into two regional sections, with the winners of each section contesting a playoff for the Southern League championship.Season Eastern Section Western Section Championship Playoff 1923–24 Peterborough & Fletton United Yeovil & Petters United Peterborough won 3–1 1924–25 Southampton Reserves Swansea Town Reserves Southampton won 2–1 1925–26 Millwall Reserves Plymouth Argyle Reserves Plymouth won 1–0 1926–27 Brighton & Hove Albion Reserves Torquay United Brighton won 4–0 1927–28 Kettering Town Bristol City Reserves Kettering won 5–0 1928–29 Kettering Town Plymouth Argyle Reserves Plymouth won 4–2 1929–30 Aldershot Town Bath City Aldershot won 3–2 1930–31 Dartford Exeter City Reserves Dartford won 7–2 1931–32 Dartford Yeovil & Petters United Dartford won 2–1 1932–33 Norwich City Reserves Bath City Norwich won 2–1
For the 1933–34 season an extra section, the Central Section was introduced to provide additional fixtures. The Central included clubs from the other two sections and did not contribute to the overall championship.Season Eastern Section Western Section Central Section Championship Playoff 1933–34 Norwich City Reserves Plymouth Argyle Reserves Plymouth Argyle Reserves Plymouth won 3–0 1934–35 Norwich City Reserves Yeovil & Petters United Folkestone Norwich won 7–2 1935–36 Margate Plymouth Argyle Reserves Margate Margate won 3–1
For the 1936–37 season, the Eastern and Western sections were merged into a single division. Additional fixtures were obtained through the Midweek Section which did not contribute to the overall championship.Season Southern League Midweek Section 1936–37 Ipswich Town Margate 1937–38 Guildford City Millwall Reserves 1938–39 Colchester United Tunbridge Wells Rangers
For the 1945–46 season, the Midweek Section was not played due to power restrictions after the Second World War.Season Southern League 1945–46 Chelmsford City 1946–47 Gillingham 1947–48 Merthyr Tydfil 1948–49 Gillingham 1949–50 Merthyr Tydfil 1950–51 Merthyr Tydfil 1951–52 Merthyr Tydfil 1952–53 Headington United 1953–54 Merthyr Tydfil 1954–55 Yeovil Town 1955–56 Guildford City 1956–57 Kettering Town 1957–58 Gravesend & Northfleet
For the 1958–59 season the Southern League was again divided into two sections: North-Western and South-Eastern. The winners of each section contested a playoff for the Southern League championshipSeason North-Western Section South-Eastern Section Championship Playoff 1958–59 Hereford United Bedford Town Bedford won 2–1
The following season saw the two sections merged to form a Premier Division, and a new Division One introduced.Season Premier Division Division One 1959–60 Bath City Clacton Town 1960–61 Oxford United Kettering Town 1961–62 Oxford United Wisbech Town 1962–63 Cambridge City Margate 1963–64 Yeovil Town Folkestone Town 1964–65 Weymouth Hereford United 1965–66 Weymouth Barnet 1966–67 Romford Dover 1967–68 Chelmsford City Worcester City 1968–69 Cambridge United Brentwood Town 1969–70 Cambridge United Bedford Town 1970–71 Yeovil Town Guildford City
For the 1971–72 season Division One was regionalised.Season Premier Division Division One North Division One South 1971–72 Chelmsford City Kettering Town Waterlooville 1972–73 Kettering Town Grantham Maidstone United 1973–74 Dartford Stourbridge Wealdstone 1974–75 Wimbledon Bedford Town Gravesend & Northfleet 1975–76 Wimbledon Redditch United Minehead 1976–77 Wimbledon Worcester City Barnet 1977–78 Bath City Witney Town Margate 1978–79 Worcester City Grantham Dover
For the 1979–80 season, thirteen Premier Division clubs joined the newly formed Alliance Premier League. The Premier Division and Division One were subsequently merged, and two regional divisions formed.Season Midland Division Southern Division 1979–80 Bridgend Town Dorchester Town 1980–81 Alvechurch Dartford 1981–82 Nuneaton Borough Wealdstone
For the 1982–83 season, the Premier Division was re-introduced, above the regional divisions.Season Premier Division Midland Division Southern Division 1982–83 Leamington Cheltenham Town Fisher Athletic 1983–84 Dartford Willenhall Town Road-Sea Southampton 1984–85 Cheltenham Town Dudley Town Basingstoke Town 1985–86 Welling United Bromsgrove Rovers Cambridge City 1986–87 Fisher Athletic VS Rugby Dorchester Town 1987–88 Aylesbury United Merthyr Tydfil Dover Athletic 1988–89 Merthyr Tydfil Gloucester City Chelmsford City 1989–90 Dover Athletic Halesowen Town Bashley 1990–91 Farnborough Town Stourbridge Buckingham Town 1991–92 Bromsgrove Rovers Solihull Borough Hastings Town 1992–93 Dover Athletic Nuneaton Borough Sittingbourne 1993–94 Farnborough Town Rushden & Diamonds Gravesend & Northfleet 1994–95 Hednesford Town Newport County Salisbury City 1995–96 Rushden & Diamonds Nuneaton Borough Sittingbourne 1996–97 Gresley Rovers Tamworth Forest Green Rovers 1997–98 Forest Green Rovers Grantham Town Weymouth 1998–99 Nuneaton Borough Clevedon Town Havant & Waterlooville
For the 1999–2000 season, the regional divisions were renamed the Eastern and Western divisions.Season Premier Division Eastern Division Western Division 1999–2000 Boston United Fisher Athletic Stafford Rangers 2000–01 Margate Newport IOW Hinckley United 2001–02 Kettering Town Hastings Town Halesowen Town 2002–03 Tamworth Dorchester Town Merthyr Tydfil 2003–04 Crawley Town King's Lynn Redditch United 2004–05 Histon Fisher Athletic Mangotsfield United 2005–06 Salisbury City Boreham Wood Clevedon Town
For the 2006–07 season, the two regional divisions were renamed Division One Midlands and Division One South & West.Season Premier Division Division One Midlands Division One South & West 2006–07 Bath City Brackley Town Bashley 2007–08 King's Lynn Evesham United Farnborough 2008–09 Corby Town Leamington Truro City
For the 2009-10 season, Division One Midlands was renamed Division One Central.Season Premier Division Division One Central Division One South & West 2009–10 Farnborough Bury Town Windsor & Eton 2010–11 Truro City Arlesey Town AFC Totton 2011–12 Brackley Town St Neots Town Bideford 2012–13 Leamington Burnham Poole Town 2013–14 Hemel Hempstead Town Dunstable Town Cirencester Town 2014–15 Corby Town Kettering Town Merthyr Town 2015–16 Poole Town Kings Langley Cinderford Town 2016–17 Chippenham Town Royston Town Hereford
For the 2017-18 season, the league renamed Central and South & West divisions back into East and West respectively.Season Premier Division East Division West Division 2017-18 Hereford Beaconsfield Town Taunton Town
For the 2018–19 season, the Premier Division was regionalised, becoming the South Division, and a Central Division was introduced.League Cup winners
Winners to 1993 source:League structure
The league structure has changed several times over the years and currently consists of Central and South Divisions at step 3 of the Pyramid with Division One South and Division One Central at step 4.
Due in large part to the presence of the Isthmian League, the geographical footprint of the Southern League actually extends further north than the National League South. Therefore, while the winners of the Central and South Divisions are promoted to the National League South, those clubs in the most northerly locales are promoted to the National League North. In the past, the majority of the winners of the former Premier Division, together with the winners of a playoff, were promoted to the higher league.
Clubs relegated from the Southern League can theoretically be placed in any of fourteen lower level leagues, but in practice it is likely to be one of the following (based on geography):
From time to time, clubs outside the promotion and relegation positions based at the geographical edges of the Southern League will be compelled to leave the League by the NLS Committee, should it be necessary for them to compete in the Northern Premier or Isthmian Leagues so as to correct any imbalances brought on by the geographical distribution of the clubs promoted and relegated to this level. Clubs in the Northern Premier or Isthmian Leagues have also been entered into the Southern League for the same reason. In general, there has been a drift southwards with teams in the Midlands such as Halesowen Town moving into the Northern Premier.See also