East Sussex Football League

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East Sussex Football League
Esfl logo.png
Number of teams58
Level on pyramidLevels 12–17
Feeder toSouthern Combination Football League Division Two
League cup(s)East Sussex Challenge Cup
Division 2 & 3 Cup
Division 4 & 5 Cup
Current championsSidley United (Premier Division)
Punnetts Town (Division One)
Rock-a-Nore (Division Two)
Bexhill Rovers (Division Three)
Hampden Park (Division Four)
Little Common III (Division Five)

The East Sussex Football League is an English association football competition for amateur teams based in East Sussex and south-west Kent. The league has a total of six divisions, headed by the Premier Division, which sits at level 12 of the national league system.

The league was formed in 1896 as the East Sussex Senior League, with the winners of the league competing for the Irish Rifle's Cup against the winners of the West Sussex League also founded in the same year. A second 'Junior' division was formed in 1899, however by the 1908-09 season league membership was at an all-time low and the league went inactive for two seasons, reforming in 1911. The league was inactive during the First World War and Second World War, but has been running continuously since 1946.

In its early years the league was entered for by the most senior teams in East Sussex with the best sides from local leagues entering the competition. Over the course of its history the league has seen its geographical catchment area shrink due to the formation of the Mid-Sussex League and Brighton League, with the formation of the Sussex County League and additional divisions further up the pyramid affecting the standard of the league.

The league currently acts as a feeder to the Southern Combination Football League and the Premier Division of the Mid-Sussex Football League, with the top two teams who possess the required ground grading eligible to apply for promotion.


The league was founded in 1896 consisting of seven founder members who were Brighton Athletic, Eastbourne Swifts, East Grinstead, Hailsham, Hastings, Lewes and North End Rangers (Brighton). The first winners of the competition were Hastings, who went on to compete for the Irish Rifle's Cup to become the champions of Sussex, losing out to Southwick, winners of the West Sussex League. An additional 'Junior' division, which primarily contained reserves teams of those in the 'senior' division, was created in 1899 and league membership remained steady throughout the early 1900s, however by the 1908-09 season there were only five teams playing in one division and the league was inactive for two seasons. The league reformed in 1911, but membership remained low until the competition was abandoned due to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

The league returned after the First World War and enjoyed a steady membership throughout the 1920s and 1930s, with Rock-a-Nore, Rye United and Sidley United winning the league during the period, also Hollington United and Hastings Rangers who have a long association with the league enjoyed successful seasons. By 1939 the number of teams competing was up to 14, however the outbreak of World War II saw the league abandoned once again.

The league returned after the War for the 1946-47 season and the following seasons saw Hastings Rangers, Hollington United and Rye United dominate the league and other local competitions, however the league would go onto lose Rye and Hastings to the newly formed Second Division of the Sussex County League in 1952, with Sidley United and Hastings & St Leonards also making the move. Hailsham won the league in the 1954-55 season and left to join the Sussex County League, the rest of the 1950s and 1960s was mostly dominated by Rye United Reserves, with Wadhurst winning the league in 1964 before joining the County League.

By the mid 1970s the league had expanded to five divisions, with a large number of teams joining from the Hastings League, during this period the league saw more clubs from the Eastbourne area and Kent also join the league. Teams from areas such as Alfriston, East Dean and Polegate played in the league during the 1970s, however numbers dwindled by the 1990s, with teams from this area seemingly opting to compete in the Mid-Sussex League. From Kent, teams like Tenterden, Hawkhurst United and Wittersham were successful in the 1970s and 1980s, with Hawkhurst and Wittersham still competing in the league.

In recent years the league has seen Shinewater Association, Wadhurst, Seaford, Westfield and Little Common enjoy league titles en route to the County League, with Langney Wanderers being the most recent club to do so in the 2012-13 season.

Current structure[edit]

Eastbourne Albert vs Bexhill AAC

The most senior division in the league is the Premier Division which is of intermediate level of football, whilst Divisions One to Five are at junior level. Reserve and third teams from clubs playing at a higher level have competed in the league throughout its history, with Bexhill United, Little Common, Langney Wanderers and Westfield all having fielded reserve and third teams in recent seasons. The league acts a feeder to the Southern Combination League, though it is likely that any teams based in Kent would join the Southern Counties East. In the past the Hastings League and Eastbourne League would have acted as feeders to the league, before their demise due to low numbers. Any teams transferring to and from the league typically transfer from neighbouring leagues of similar standard, such as the Mid-Sussex League, Ashford & District League and the Kent County League.

The league is currently sponsored by Macron Store Hastings, who provide all match balls for teams in the league, having previously been sponsored by ADA restaurant based in Hastings. Two of the three league cup competitions are also sponsored, with the East Sussex Challenge Cup, sponsored by Premier Travel; Division Two & Three Cup sponsored by Wisdens Sports; Division Four and Five Cup is currently not sponsored and known as the Chairman's Challenge Cup.

League Cups[edit]

The league currently run three cup competitions, the most senior being the East Sussex Challenge Cup (Premier Travel Cup) founded in 1911 as an invitational trophy for teams in East Sussex, which is now competed for by teams in the Premier Division and Division One. Teams in the league also compete in the Hastings FA and Eastbourne FA run cup competitions, as well as the Robertsbridge Charity Cup competitions.

Current member clubs[edit]


Season Champions
1896-97 Hastings
1897-98 Brighton Athletic
1898-99 Brighton Athletic

For the 1899-1900 season the league added a secondary 'Junior' Division.

Season Senior Division Junior Division
1899-1900 Hastings Hastings Reserves
1900-1901 Hastings Hastings Reserves

The 'Junior Division' was dropped ahead of the 1901-02 season.

Season Champions
1901-02 Brighton Athletic
1902-03 St Leonards
1903-04 Hastings
1904-05 Newhaven & Cement Works
1905-06 Newhaven & Cement Works
1906-07 Eastbourne St Mary
1907-08 Rock-a-Nore
1908-09 Newhaven

The league was inactive for the 1909-10 and 1910-11 seasons.

Season Champions
1911-12 St Leonards Amateurs
1912-13 St Leonards Amateurs
1913-14 Hastings & St Leonards Amateurs Reserves

Between 1915 and 1919 the competition was suspended due to the First World War.

Season Champions
1919-20 Not known
1920-21 Bexhill Town
1921-22 Not known
1922-23 Rock-A-Nore
1923-24 Bexhill Town
1924-25 Rock-A-Nore
1925-26 Sidley United
1926-27 Hollington United
1927-28 Hastings & St Leonards 'A'
1928-29 Rock-A-Nore
1929-30 Hollington United
1930-31 Hellingly Hospital
1931-32 Hollington United
1932-33 Sidley United
1933-34 Rock-A-Nore
1934-35 Rye
1935-36 Hollington United
1936-37 Hastings Rangers
1937-38 Hastings Rangers
1938-39 Rye United

The league was split into two divisions for the 1939-40 season, with Hastings Rangers winning the play-off game between the Eastern and Western champions.

Season Eastern Section Western Section
1939-40 Hastings Rangers Heathfield United

The league was abandoned due to the outbreak of World War II with the league resuming for the 1946-47 season.

Season Champions
1946-47 Rye United
1947-48 Rye United
1948-49 Heathfield United
1949-50 Rye United
1950-51 Rye United
1951-52 Rye United
1952-53 Battle Rangers
1953-54 Hailsham
1954-55 Not known
1955-56 Hellingly Hospital
1956-57 Not known
1957-58 Rye United Reserves
1958-59 Rye United Reserves

For the 1959-60 season the league added a second division.

Season Division One Division Two
1959-60 Hellingly Hospital Rye United 'A'
1960-61 Tunbridge Wells United 'A' Rye United 'A'
1961-62 Wadhurst Rye United 'A'
1962-63 Not known
1963-64 Wadhurst Rye United 'A'
1964-65 Rye United Reserves Ore United
1965-66 Not known
1966-67 Burwash Rye United 'A'

Two more divisions were formed for the 1967-68 season.

Season Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four
1967-68 Old Centmodians Spartak Northiam Ashburnham
1968-69 Rye United Reserves Hailsham St James Park Hooe Reserves

Division Five was formed for the 1969-70 season.

Season Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four Division Five
1969-70 Hailsham St James Park St James Park Reserves Bohemia United Hollington United Reserves

For the 1969-70 season Division One was split into Division One East and Division One West.

Season Division One East Division One West Division Two Division Three Division Four Division Five
1970-71 Rye United Reserves Sidley United Reserves Ninfield United Albion United Northeye Polegate Reserves

For the 1971-72 season, the top teams of each Division One table was placed in the new Premier Division, whilst the other sides were put into Division One.

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four Division Five
1971-72 Tenterden Hastings Rangers Albion United Apollo Albion United Reserves Seeboard TW Reserves
1972-73 Hooe Albion United Apollo Albion United Reserves Jarvis Brook Seaford Athletic
1973-74 Tenterden Not known
1974-77 Not known
1977-78 Westfield Oak Road Rye Athletic Sandhurst Laughton Linton Athletic 'A'
1978-81 Not known
1981-82 Wittersham Hastings Civil Service Hooe Not known
1982-83 Not known
1983-84 Bodiam Punnetts Town Flimwell Cosmos Staplecross Frant
1984-88 Not known
1988-89 Rock-A-Nore Not known
1989-90 Rock-A-Nore Not known

Division Six was added during the 1990s, though which year it was added is currently unknown.

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four Division Five Division Six
1990-91 Firehills Not known
1991-92 Shinewater Association Not known
1992-93 Wadhurst United Not known
1993-94 Hollington United Not known
1994-95 Hollington United Not known
1995-96 Hollington United Not known
1996-97 Polegate Not known
1997-98 Wadhurst United Sandhurst Old Centmodians Bexhill AAC Wadhurst United Reserves Heathfield United Pebsham Sibex
1998-99 Seaford Old Centmodians Westfield Reserves Heathfield Hotspurs Old Centmodians Reserves Hastings Rangers Wittersham Reserves
1999-2000 Rock-A-Nore Hollington United Reserves Heathfield Hotspurs Heathfield United Hastings Rangers Firehills Seniors Westfield 'A'

For the 2000-01 season, only the Premier Division completed the season, the rest of the league was abandoned due to a combination of adverse weather and the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four Division Five Division Six
2000-01 Wadhurst United Abandoned
2001-02 Hollington United Heathfield United St Leonards Social Hawkhurst United Heathfield United Reserves Little Common Reserves Hellingly Hospital
2002-03 Wadhurst United Punnetts Town Hawkhurst United Heathfield United Reserves Sedlescombe Herstmonceux Castleham United
2003-04 Hollington United Bodiam The JC Tackleway Sedlescombe Castleham United Battle Rangers Reserves Wadhurst United 'A'
2004-05 Little Common Eastbourne WMC Heathfield Hotspurs Old Hastonians Crowhurst Little Common 'A' Bexhill United 'B'
2005-06 Hawkhurst United Hollington United Reserves Icklesham Casuals Athletico Hastings Rangers Reserves Eastbourne Fishermen Panako
2006-07 Hawkhurst United Punnetts Town Hastings Rangers Little Common 'A' Robertsbridge United Cinque Ports The Pelham
2007-08 Hollington United Sedlescombe Wheatsheaf Benbow Cinque Ports The Wilton Nelson Tigers
2008-09 St Leonards Social Q Ball Wadhurst United Hurst Nelson Tigers Travaux Guestling Rangers

For the 2009-10 season, the league formed Division Seven.

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four Division Five Division Six Division Seven
2009-10 St Leonards Social Wadhurst United Peasmarsh & Iden Reserves Eastbourne Dynamos Eastbourne Fishermen Orington Wadhurst United Reserves Magham Down
2010–11 St Leonards Social White Knight Eastbourne Galaxy St Helens Orington Burwash AFC Sidley Eastbourne Rangers
2011–12 Hollington United Ninfield United Ore Athletic Orington Sedlescombe Rangers Reserves AFC Sidley Eastbourne Rangers Battle Baptists Reserves

The league dropped Division Seven ahead of the 2012-13 season

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four Division Five Division Six
2012–13 Langney Wanderers Hollington United Reserves Crowborough Athletic 'A' The JC Tackleway Eastbourne Rangers Bexhill AAC Reserves Herstmonceux 'A'
2013-14 Hollington United Sedlescombe Rangers Little Chelsea Old Hastonians Bexhill-on-Sea Little Common 'A' Catsfield Reserves
2014-15 St Leonards Social Hawkhurst United Eastbourne Rangers Sovereign Saints Peasmarsh United Mayfield Orington

The league dropped Division Six ahead of the 2015-16 season

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two Division Three Division Four Division Five
2015-16 Peche Hill Select Sidley United Northiam 75 St Leonards Social Reserves Bexhill Rovers Parkfield
2016-17 Hollington United Rye Town Bexhill AAC Hollington United Reserves Sovereign Saints Wittersham Reserves
2017-18 Hollington United Bexhill AAC Sovereign Saints Punnetts Town Bexhill AAC Reserves Hampden Park
2018-19 Sidley United Punnetts Town Rock A Nore Bexhill Rovers Hampden Park Little Common III
2019-20 Abandoned

External links[edit]