The Southern League – all you need to know
With Blues’ place in the Evo-Stik Southern League seemingly confirmed for 2017/18, we bring you everything you need to know about the competition we’ll play in for the first time.
Formed in 1894, the Southern League is one of the oldest football leagues in the world. It started life with two divisions, and among its 16 founder members were Luton Town, Southampton, Millwall, Swindon Town and Reading along with Gillingham who were in Division Two. Current National League sides Bromley and Maidenhead were also founder members of Division Two along with Uxbridge, Clapton and Chatham Town.
The league was initially roughly on par with the Football League Division Two (the only FL members south of Birmingham were Arsenal) with members Tottenham Hotspur winning the FA Cup in 1901 and Southampton also reaching the final.
Such was its stature, the winners of the Southern League faced the Football League champions in the early days of the FA Charity Shield
Since then it has slowly slipped down the pecking order and now sits at the seventh and eighth levels of the game in England. At least part of that has been by design rather than accident, with the SL agreeing that its entire top division would become the Football League’s Division Three (South) while in 1079 it helped form the Alliance Premier League (formally Football Conference now National League) with 13 of its member clubs leaving and a further four transferring to the Northern Premier League.
It lost a further 14 clubs to the reorganisation that saw Conference South & North formed.
The SL has stretched as far north as Yorkshire with Bradford Park Avenue (the original one, not the lot we played) joining in 1907.
It doesn’t go quite that far these days, with its most northerly Premier Division member being Kings Lynn Town, who are also its most easterly. It’s most easterly club is Merthyr Town with Weymouth being the most southerly Premier Division member, though Tiverton and Frome aren’t exactly around the corner.
The SL champions are promoted to the National League’s second tier. The next four teams go into the play-offs, with ties played as one-off games with the highest finishing side having home advantage. The bottom four are normally relegated but these changes mean only the bottom side will go down next season.
The Evo-Stik Southern League Cup was won by Hayes & Yeading last season, beating hosts St Ives Town on penalties. The final is generally staged over two legs but Hayes’ ground problems meant it was played as a single tie. The competition is now optional, with four of the league’s 68 clubs not entering last season.
The proposed Evo-Stik Southern League constitution for 2017/18 is as follows
Bishop’s Stortford (Relegated from National League South)
Farnborough (Promoted from SL Division 1 Central)
Gosport Borough (Relegated from National League South)
Hereford (Promoted from SL Division 1 South & West)
King’s Lynn Town
Royston Town (Promoted from SL Division 1 Central)
St. Ives Town
St. Neots Town
Tiverton Town (Promoted from SL Division 1 South & West)
Division 1 South & West
Bristol Manor Farm (Promoted from Western League Premier Division)
Cinderford Town (Relegated from SL Premier Division)
Cirencester Town (Relegated from SL Premier Division)
Kidlington (Transferred from SL Division Central)
Division 1 Central
AFC Rushden & Diamonds (Transferred from NPL 1st Division South)
Ashford Town (Middx)
Cambridge City (Relegated From SL Premier Division)
Chalfont St. Peter
Hartley Wintney (Promoted From Combined Counties League Premier Division)
Hayes & Yeading United (Relegated From SL Premier Division)
Moneyfields (Promoted From Wessex League Premier Division)
Thame United (Promoted From Hellenic League Premier Division)