Dr. Marten's League (Southern League)

Founded: 1894

Professional football in the South was slow to take hold. Most teams preferred to remain true to the Amateur principle and local county FAs would not countenance professionalism in any case. Attempts in 1892 by Woolwich Arsenal (the first Southern club to turn professional) to interest clubs in a Southern League floundered due to fears of incurring the wrath of the London FA. Eventually the Southern League was established in 1894 on the initiative of Millwall Athletic.

Founder Members

Division One: Chatham, Clapton, Ilford, Luton Town, Millwall Athletic, Reading, Royal Ordnance Factories, 2nd Scots Guards and Swindon Town. Southampton St. Mary's replaced 2nd Scots Guards who withdrew before the competion commenced.

Division Two: Bromley, Chesham, Maidenhead, New Brompton, Old St. Stephen's, Sheppey United and Uxbridge.

Area Covered

The Dr. Marten's League covers the South and Midlands. The boundary to the North is roughly between Stoke and Stafford in the West and Boston and King's Lynn in the East. Clubs in and around the Greater London area play in the Ryman League in general. Where possible clubs relegated from the Conference are placed in the league of their choice which is normally the one in which they previously played.


3 divisions, 66 clubs
Premier Division (22 clubs)
Midland & West Division (22 clubs) and Southern & East Division (22 clubs)

Until 1920 the Football League consisted predominantly of clubs from the Midlands and the North with only a handful of the very strongest Southern clubs. All the other major Southern clubs played in the Southern League and the standard of the league was roughly equivalent to the Second Division of the Football League. The standard of the league was most amply demonstrated in 1901 when Tottenham Hotspur became the first, and to date only, club from outside the Football League/FA Premier League to win the FA Cup. Merger with the Football League was discussed on several occassions and was eventually agreed upon in 1920 when the First Division clubs of the Southern League were admitted en masse to the Football League. The Southern League continued in two sections with the reserve teams of the former First Division clubs forming the bulk of the members. The number of reserve teams gradually reduced in the years leading up to the Second World War as they dropped out and were replaced by the first teams of ambitious non-league clubs. When football restarted after the war the Southern League reformd as a single division of mainly first teams, initially of 18 clubs quickly rising to 24 before settling at 22 for most of the '50s. A large influx of new members in 1958 led to the creation of two equal divisions, this arrangement only lasted for a season after which the top 11 clubs from each division formed a new Premier Division and the remainder were placed in Division One. When the Alliance Premier League was formed in 1979 the Southern League provided 13 of the founder members. Several clubs were also transferred to the Northern Premier League to compensate for that league's loss of clubs to the APL. The remaining Premier Division and First Division clubs formed two new regional divisions, a Southern Division of 24 clubs and a Midland Division of 22 clubs. The winners of each section were both eligible for promotion to the APL (subject to having suitable facilities) and played off against each other for the Southern League championship. There was a further change in 1982 when one of the promotion places to the APL was given to the Isthmian League and the Premier Division was re-instated with 20 clubs. Later this was increased to 22 clubs. From 1999-2000 the boundaries of the two regional divisions have been re-aligned and they have been renamed 'Midland & West' and 'Southern & East'.

Premier Division

Promotion: 1 club to The Football Conference (subject to meeting the League's entry criteria)

Relegation: 4 clubs to Midland & West and Southern & East Divisions

Composition 1999-2000

Atherstone United, Bath City, Boston United, Burton Albion, Cambridge City, Clevedon Town, Crawley Town, Dorchester Town, Gloucester City, Grantham Town, Halesowen Town, Havant & Waterlooville, Ilkeston Town, King's Lynn, Margate, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County, Rothwell Town, Salisbury City, Tamworth, Weymouth, Worcester City.

It is assumed that having resigned from the League, Hastings Town will be removed from the Premier Division in accordance with League rules. Since they later rescinded their resignation, they are likely to be offered a place in the Southern Division at the League's AGM on June 12th. The latest rumours (early June) is of a takeover by St. Leonard's Stamcroft.


Promoted from Midland Division: Clevedon Town, Newport County (formerly Newport AFC)
Promoted from Southern Division: Havant & Waterlooville, Margate


Promoted to Football Conference: Nuneaton Borough
Relegated to Midland & West Division: Gresley Rovers, Bromsgrove Rovers
Demoted to Southern & East Division: Hastings Town (resigned from League, then rescinded their resignation)

Recent Champions

1999 Nuneaton Borough
1998 Forest Green Rovers
1997 Gresley Rovers
1996 Rushden & Diamonds
1995 Hednesford Town
1994 Farnborough Town
1993 Dover Athletic
1992 Bromsgrove Rovers
1991 Farnborough Town
1990 Dover Athletic

Full list of champions

Midland & West Division

Promotion: 2 clubs to the Premier Division

Relegation: 2 clubs to geographically suitable feeder leagues including Interlink Express Midland Alliance, uhlsport United Counties League, Screwfix Direct Western League, Complete Music Hellenic League.

Composition 1999-2000

Bedworth United, Bilston Town, Blakenall, Bromsgrove Rovers, Cinderford Town, Cirencester Town, Evesham United, Gresley Rovers, Hinckley United, Moor Green, Paget Rangers, Racing Club Warwick, Redditch United, Rocester, Shepshed Dynamo, Solihull Borough, Stafford Rangers, Stourbridge, Sutton Coldfield Town, Tiverton Town, Weston-super-Mare, Yate Town.


Relegated from Premier Division: Gresley Rovers, Bromsgrove Rovers
Promoted from Interlink Midland Alliance: Rocester
Promoted from Screwfix Direct Western League: Tiverton Town
Transferred from Southern Division: Cirencester Town and Yate Town


Promoted to Premier Division: Clevedon Town, Newport AFC (now Newport County)
Relegated to Interlink Midland Alliance: Bloxwich Town
Transferred to Southern & East Division: VS Rugby, Wisbech Town and Stamford AFC

Recent Champions

1999 Clevedon Town
1998 Grantham Town
1997 Tamworth
1996 Nuneaton Borough
1995 Newport AFC
1994 Rushden & Diamonds
1993 Nuneaton Borough
1992 Solihull Borough
1991 Stourbridge
1990 Halesowen Town

Southern Division

Promotion: 2 clubs to the Premier Division

Relegation: 2 clubs to geographically suitable feeder leagues including Winstonlead Kent League, Jewson Eastern Counties League, Jewson Wessex League, Complete Music Hellenic League, Unijet Sussex County League, uhlsport United Counties League.

Composition 1999-2000 (to be confirmed)

Ashford Town, Baldock Town, Bashley, Burnham, Chelmsford City, Corby Town, Dartford, Erith & Belvedere, Fisher Athletic (London), Fleet Town, Folkestone Invicta, Hastings Town, Newport (IOW), Raunds Town, St. Leonard's, Sittingbourne, Spalding United, Stamford AFC, Tonbridge Angels, VS Rugby, Wisbech Town, Witney Town.


Demoted from Premier Division: Hastings Town (resigned from League and then rescinded their resignation)
Promoted from uhlsport United Counties League: Spalding United
Promoted from Complete Music Hellenic League: Burnham
Transferred from Midland Divison: VS Rugby, Wisbech Town and Stamford AFC


Promoted to Premier Division: Havant & Waterlooville, Margate
Relegated to Complete Music Hellenic League: Brackley Town
Relegated to Jewson Wessex League: Andover
Transferred to Midland & West Division: Cirencester Town and Yate Town

Recent Champions

1999 Havant & Waterlooville
1998 Weymouth
1997 Forest Green Rovers
1996 Sittingbourne
1995 Salisbury
1994 Gravesend & Northfleet
1993 Sittingbourne
1992 Hastings Town
1991 Buckingham Town
1990 Bashley



Midland Alliance | United Counties | Eastern Counties

About this document

Prepared and maintained by James M. Ross

Author: James M. Ross
Last updated: 20 Apr 2000

Copyright © 1997,2000 James M. Ross
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