Isthmian League

From Academic Kids

The Isthmian League is a regional football league covering London and South East England. It is more commonly known by the name of its official title sponsor as the Ryman League, and before that as the Diadora League, ICIS League and Vauxhall-Opel League.



The league was founded in 1905, and was strongly dedicated to amateurism. The champions did not even receive a trophy, league policy being that the honour sufficed. Teams less able to compete financially thus gravitated to it rather than the Southern League, while those with ambition and money would move in the opposite direction.

Although the league established itself as one of the strongest leagues in the country, routinely providing the winners of the FA Amateur Cup, it was still seen as being at a lower level than the Southern League and Northern Premier League, the top regional semi-professional leagues. The league began to admit professionalism in the 1970s, although it refused to participate in the formation of the Alliance Premier League 1979. Two Isthmian clubs, Enfield and Dagenham, defected to the APL in 1981, but it was not until 1985 that the Isthmian League champions were given a promotion place to the newly renamed Football Conference.

Since then, due to it being accompanied by the reward of promotion into the Conference, no team has retained the title (as had happened on 22 occasions previously); however, Canvey Island were runners-up three seasons running from 2000-01 to 2002-03, also winning the FA Trophy and reaching the Third Round Proper of the FA Cup, before finally securing the 2003-04 league title.

League expansion

The league expanded over the years from six clubs in its first season, to 14 clubs in 1921-22. Over the next five decades, only a few new members were admitted, mainly to fill vacancies left by clubs leaving the league. A second division of 16 clubs was formed in 1973, and a third division was added in 1977. These divisions were renamed as Premier, First and Second divisions.

Most new Isthmian League members joined from the Athenian League, which was similarly dedicated to amateurism. The Athenian League disbanded in 1984 when the Isthmian League Second Division split into North and South sections. These were restructured again to Second and Third divisions in 1991.

In 2002, the league was restructured again, with the First and Second Divisions merging to become First (North) and First (South), and the Third Division being renamed as the Second. In addition, the Isthmian's three feeder leagues - the Combined Counties League, Essex Senior League and Spartan South Midlands League - ran in parallel with the Isthmian Second, and were able to feed directly into the regional First Divisions.

Current structure

In 2004, The Football Association pushed through a major restructuring of the non-league National League System (NLS), creating new regional divisions of the Football Conference. The Isthmian League was reduced back down to three divisions, and its boundaries were changed to remove the overlap with the Southern League. The Premier Division (at step 3 of the NLS) covers Greater London and most of south east England; and the First Division (at step 4) covers a smaller area of south London and the southern Home Counties. The league still overlaps with the Southern League and its feeder leagues to some degree, especially at step 5, the Isthmian Second Division. Future restructuring at this level of the pyramid may force the Second Division to merge with another league.

There is a league cup, open to teams of all divisions, sponsored by Bryco. One team, Clapton F.C., have been ever-present in the Isthmian League since its foundation.

Premier Division teams, 2005-06

Teams progressing to the Football League

Past Champions

(Clubs tagged with a * no longer exist.)

External link

Template:Isthmian League Prem
Template:English football league system


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