Jump to content

Isthmian League

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Isthmian League
Founded1905; 119 years ago (1905)
Other club(s) fromGuernsey
  • Premier Division
  • North Division
  • South Central Division
  • South East Division
Number of teams82
  • Premier Division: 22
  • North Division: 20
  • South Central Division: 20
  • South East Division: 20
Level on pyramid7–8
Promotion toNational League South
Relegation to
Domestic cup(s)
Current championsBishop's Stortford (Premier Division)
Hashtag United (North Division)
Basingstoke Town (South Central Division)
Chatham Town (South East Division)
Websitewww.isthmian.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata
Current: 2023–24 Isthmian League

The Isthmian League (/ˈɪs(θ)miən/) is a regional football league covering Greater London, East and South East England, featuring mostly semi-professional clubs.

Founded in 1905 by amateur clubs in the London area, the league now consists of 82 teams in four divisions: the Premier Division above its three feeder divisions, the North, South Central and South East divisions.

Together with the Southern League and the Northern Premier League, it forms the seventh and eighth levels of the English football league system. It has various regional feeder leagues and the league as a whole is a feeder league mainly to the National League South.


Before the Isthmian League was formed, there were no leagues in which amateur football clubs could compete, only knock-out cup competitions. Therefore, a meeting took place between representatives of Casuals, Civil Service, Clapton, Ealing Association, Ilford and London Caledonians to discuss the creation of a strong amateur league. All the clubs supported the idea and the Isthmian League was born on 7 March 1905. Membership of the league was through invitation only. The league was very strongly dedicated to the cause of amateurism in sport; consequently, the champions of the league did not even receive a trophy or medals; the league's Latin motto was honor sufficit ('honour is sufficient').

Thus, those clubs less able to compete financially gravitated to it rather than to the Southern League, which attracted clubs with ambition and money. Although the Isthmian League established itself as one of the strongest amateur leagues in the country, routinely providing the winners of the FA Amateur Cup, it was still regarded as being at a lower level than the Southern League, which had developed into the top regional semi-professional league. By 1922 the Isthmian League had fourteen clubs and over the next five decades, only a few new members were admitted, mainly to fill vacancies left by clubs leaving the league. Most new Isthmian League members joined from the Athenian League, which was similarly dedicated to amateurism.

The Isthmian League was most likely named after the ancient Isthmian Games, with the later Athenian League, Corinthian League, Delphian League, Spartan League, Parthenon League and Aetolian League all adding a Classical Greek flavour to amateur football competition. In 1962 an 'all-star' team from the Isthmian League entered the 1962 Ugandan Independence Tournament, drawing both their games versus Kenya and Ghana.

The league finally began to permit professionalism in the mid-1970s when the Football Association abolished the long-standing distinction between amateur and professional status with effect from the 1974–75 season. A second division of sixteen clubs was formed in 1973 and a third division followed in 1977. However, the league still remained officious and refused to participate in the formation of the Alliance Premier League in 1979 and whilst two Isthmian clubs, Enfield and Dagenham, defected to the APL in 1981, it was not until 1985 that the Isthmian League champions were given a promotion place to the newly renamed Football Conference. The reward of promotion into the Conference means that, since 1985, no team has won the league champions title two seasons in succession (as had happened on 22 occasions previously). The Athenian League disbanded in 1984 when the Isthmian League Second Division split into North and South Divisions. These were restructured yet again to Second and Third Divisions in 1991.

In 2002, the league was restructured once more, with the First and Second Divisions merging to become Division One North and Division One South (later renamed simply the North and South divisions), and the Third Division being renamed as Division Two. In addition, the league's three feeder leagues—the Combined Counties League, Essex Senior League and Spartan South Midlands League—ran in parallel with Division Two, and were able to feed directly into the regional Division Ones.

In 2004, The Football Association pushed through a major restructuring of the entire national non-league National League System, creating new regional divisions of the Football Conference feeding into the top, national, level. As a consequence of this restructuring, the Isthmian League was reduced back down to three divisions, and its boundaries were changed to remove the overlap with the Southern League.

In 2006, further reorganisation saw a reversion to two regional Division Ones and the disbandment of Division Two. This current plan calls for clubs based on the edges of the Isthmian League's territory to transfer to and from the Southern League as necessary to maintain numerical balance between the leagues. One team, Clapton, who were ever present in the Isthmian League since its foundation, were moved to the Essex Senior League for the 2006–07 season. Dulwich Hamlet, who had joined the league in 1907, became its longest serving member until their promotion to the National League South for the 2018–19 season.

In May 2017, The Football Association chose the Isthmian League to add a third regional division at Step 4 as part of further restructuring in the National League System, reducing all divisions at Step 4 to 20 teams. The new division started play in the 2018–19 season.[1]

Current Isthmian League members[edit]


Season Isthmian League
1905–06 London Caledonians
1906–07 Ilford
1907–08 London Caledonians
1908–09 Bromley
1909–10 Bromley
1910–11 Clapton
1911–12 London Caledonians
1912–13 London Caledonians
1913–14 London Caledonians
1914–19 Not held due to World War I
1919 Leytonstone
1919–20 Dulwich Hamlet
1920–21 Ilford
1921–22 Ilford
1922–23 Clapton
1923–24 St Albans City
1924–25 London Caledonians
1925–26 Dulwich Hamlet
1926–27 St Albans City
1927–28 St Albans City
1928–29 Nunhead
1929–30 Nunhead
1930–31 Wimbledon
1931–32 Wimbledon
1932–33 Dulwich Hamlet
1933–34 Kingstonian
1934–35 Wimbledon
1935–36 Wimbledon
1936–37 Kingstonian
1937–38 Leytonstone
1938–39 Leytonstone
1939–45 Not held World War II
1945–46 Walthamstow Avenue
1946–47 Leytonstone
1947–48 Leytonstone
1948–49 Dulwich Hamlet
1949–50 Leytonstone
1950–51 Leytonstone
1951–52 Leytonstone
1952–53 Walthamstow Avenue
1953–54 Bromley
1954–55 Walthamstow Avenue
1955–56 Wycombe Wanderers
1956–57 Wycombe Wanderers
1957–58 Tooting & Mitcham United
1958–59 Wimbledon
1959–60 Tooting & Mitcham United
1960–61 Bromley
1961–62 Wimbledon
1962–63 Wimbledon
1963–64 Wimbledon
1964–65 Hendon
1965–66 Leytonstone
1966–67 Sutton United
1967–68 Enfield
1968–69 Enfield
1969–70 Enfield
1970–71 Wycombe Wanderers
1971–72 Wycombe Wanderers
1972–73 Hendon

For the 1973–74 season, Division Two was added.

Season Division One Division Two
1973–74 Wycombe Wanderers Dagenham
1974–75 Wycombe Wanderers Staines Town
1975–76 Enfield Tilbury
1976–77 Enfield Boreham Wood

For the 1977–78 season, Division One was renamed the Premier Division, Division Two was renamed Division One and new Division Two was added.

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two
1977–78 Enfield Dulwich Hamlet Epsom & Ewell
1978–79 Barking Harrow Borough Farnborough Town
1979–80 Enfield Leytonstone/Ilford Billericay Town
1980–81 Slough Town Bishop's Stortford Feltham
1981–82 Leytonstone & Ilford Wokingham Town Worthing
1982–83 Wycombe Wanderers Worthing Clapton
1983–84 Harrow Borough Windsor & Eton Basildon United

For the 1984–85 season, Division Two was reorganised into North and South regions.

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two North Division Two South
1984–85 Sutton United Farnborough Town Leyton Wingate Grays Athletic
1985–86 Sutton United St Albans City Stevenage Borough Southwick
1986–87 Wycombe Wanderers Leytonstone/Ilford Chesham United Woking
1987–88 Yeovil Town Marlow Wivenhoe Town Chalfont St Peter
1988–89 Leytonstone/Ilford Staines Town Harlow Town Dorking
1989–90 Slough Town Wivenhoe Town Heybridge Swifts Yeading
1990–91 Redbridge Forest Chesham United Stevenage Borough Abingdon Town

For the 1991–92 season, regional divisions Two were merged and Division Three was added.

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two Division Three
1991–92 Woking Stevenage Borough Purfleet Edgware Town
1992–93 Chesham United Hitchin Town Worthing Aldershot Town
1993–94 Stevenage Borough Bishop's Stortford Newbury Town Bracknell Town
1994–95 Enfield Boreham Wood Thame United Collier Row
1995–96 Hayes Oxford City Canvey Island Horsham
1996–97 Yeovil Town Chesham United Collier Row & Romford Wealdstone
1997–98 Kingstonian Aldershot Town Canvey Island Hemel Hempstead Town
1998–99 Sutton United Canvey Island Bedford Town Ford United
1999–2000 Dagenham & Redbridge Croydon Hemel Hempstead Town East Thurrock United
2000–01 Farnborough Town Boreham Wood Tooting & Mitcham United Arlesey Town
2001–02 Gravesend & Northfleet Ford United Lewes Croydon Athletic

At the end of the 1994–95 season, Enfield were denied promotion to the Conference. Their place was taken by Slough Town who finished as runners-up.

For the 2002–03 season, Division One was reorganised into North and South regions and Division Three was disbanded.

Season Premier Division Division One North Division One South Division Two
2002–03 Aldershot Town Northwood Carshalton Athletic Cheshunt
2003–04 Canvey Island Yeading Lewes Leighton Town

For the 2004–05 season Division Ones North and South were merged.

Season Premier Division Division One Division Two
2004–05 Yeading AFC Wimbledon Ilford
2005–06 Braintree Town Ramsgate Ware
Dover Athletic receive the Isthmian League Premier Division trophy in 2009

For the 2006–07 season, Division One was reorganised into North and South regions and Division Two was disbanded.

Season Premier Division North Division South Division
2006–07 Hampton & Richmond Borough AFC Hornchurch Maidstone United
2007–08 Chelmsford City Dartford Dover Athletic
2008–09 Dover Athletic Aveley Kingstonian
2009–10 Dartford Lowestoft Town Croydon Athletic
2010–11 Sutton United East Thurrock United Metropolitan Police
2011–12 Billericay Town Leiston Whitehawk
2012–13 Whitehawk Grays Athletic Dulwich Hamlet
2013–14 Wealdstone VCD Athletic Peacehaven & Telscombe
2014–15 Maidstone United Needham Market Burgess Hill Town
2015–16 Hampton & Richmond Borough AFC Sudbury Folkestone Invicta
2016–17 Havant & Waterlooville Brightlingsea Regent Tooting & Mitcham United
2017–18 Billericay Town AFC Hornchurch Carshalton Athletic

For the 2018–19 season, the South Division was reorganised into South Central and South East divisions.

Season Premier Division North Division South Central Division South East Division
2018–19 Dorking Wanderers Bowers & Pitsea Hayes & Yeading United Cray Wanderers
2019–201 Worthing Maldon & Tiptree Ware Hastings United
2020–212 Worthing Tilbury Waltham Abbey Hastings United
2021–22 Worthing Aveley Bracknell Town Hastings United
2022–23 Bishop's Stortford Hashtag United Basingstoke Town Chatham Town
2023–24 Hornchurch Lowestoft Town Chertsey Town Cray Valley Paper Mills

1 The 2019–20 season was terminated on 26 March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic; the teams listed here were in first place in the standings at the time of the termination, but were not recognised as champions.

2 The 2020–21 season was also terminated on 24 February 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic; the teams listed here were in first place in the standings at the time of the termination, but were not recognised as champions.


Since the league's formation in 1905, the following clubs have won promotion to higher levels of the English football league system -

Seasons Promoted to
19791986 Alliance Premier League
19862003 Football Conference
20032005 Football Conference National
20042015 Football Conference North
20042015 Football Conference South
2015present National League North
2015present National League South
Season Club Position Promoted to
1980–81 Enfield
Alliance Premier League
Alliance Premier League
1984–85 Wycombe Wanderers 3rd Alliance Premier League
1985–86 Sutton United 1st Football Conference
1986–87 Wycombe Wanderers 1st Football Conference
1987–88 Yeovil Town 1st Football Conference
1988–89 Farnborough Town 2nd Football Conference
1989–90 Slough Town 1st Football Conference
1990–91 Redbridge Forest 1st Football Conference
1991–92 Woking 1st Football Conference
1993–94 Stevenage Borough 1st Football Conference
1994–95 Slough Town 2nd Football Conference
1995–96 Hayes 1st Football Conference
1996–97 Yeovil Town 1st Football Conference
1997–98 Kingstonian 1st Football Conference
1998–99 Sutton United 1st Football Conference
1999–2000 Dagenham & Redbridge 1st Football Conference
2000–01 Farnborough Town 1st Football Conference
2001–02 Gravesend & Northfleet 1st Football Conference
2002–03 Aldershot Town 1st Football Conference National
2003–04 Canvey Island
Kettering Town
Sutton United
Grays Athletic
Carshalton Athletic
Bognor Regis Town
Bishop's Stortford
Maidenhead United
Ford United
Basingstoke Town
St Albans City
Lewes (IL DOS)
Football Conference National
Football Conference North
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2004–05 Yeading
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2005–06 Braintree Town
Fisher Athletic
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2006–07 Hampton & Richmond B
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2007–08 Chelmsford City
AFC Wimbledon
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2008–09 Dover Athletic
Staines Town
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2009–10 Dartford
Boreham Wood
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2010–11 Sutton United
Tonbridge Angels
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2011–12 Billericay Town
AFC Hornchurch
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2012–13 Whitehawk
Concord Rangers
Football Conference South
Football Conference South
2013–14 Wealdstone
Lowestoft Town
Football Conference South
Football Conference North
2014–15 Maidstone United
National League South
National League South
2015–16 Hampton & Richmond B
East Thurrock United
National League South
National League South
2016–17 Havant & Waterlooville
Bognor Regis Town
National League South
National League South
2017–18 Billericay Town
Dulwich Hamlet
National League South
National League South
2018–19 Dorking Wanderers
Tonbridge Angels
National League South
National League South
2019–20 No promotion to National League North or South
2020–21 Step 3 promotion cancelled
2021–22 Worthing
National League South
National League South
2022–23 Bishop's Stortford
National League North
National League South
2023–24 Hornchurch
Enfield Town*
National League South
National League South

Asterisk indicates club was promoted via play-offs


The Isthmian League was the first league to have sponsorship, having been selected by Rothmans, who sponsored the league from 1973 to 1977. The company offered prize money for position in the league but money was deducted for bookings. Thus the money encouraged both more goals and fair play. The sponsors after Rothmans to the present day have been: Michael Lawrie (1977–78), Berger (1978–82), Servowarm (1982–85), Vauxhall-Opel (1985–90), Vauxhall (1990–91), Diadora (1991–95), ICIS (1995–97), Ryman (1997–2017),[2] Bostik (2017–19)[3] and BetVictor (2019–20). Entain's Pitching In was announced as the next sponsor for 2020–21. At the time of announcement, Entain went by its former name GVC Holdings. Under this partnership, Isthmian is marketed as one of the three Trident Leagues, alongside the Northern Premier and Southern leagues.[4]

Ryman also sponsored the Isthmian Youth League and Isthmian Development League upon their creations in 2007 and 2013 respectively.[5] Ryman chairman Theo Paphitis added to his league sponsorship through his flagship companies. Robert Dyas became sponsors of the Isthmian League Cup, Isthmian Veterans Cup, Isthmian Disability Cup and Isthmian Youth Play-off Cup in 2014, and Boux Avenue sponsored the Isthmian Women's Cup from 2014 to 2017.

Becoming the longest running sports sponsorship in UK football, Ryman stepped down as sponsors at the end of the 2016–17 season after 20 years.[6]

League Cup[edit]

The Alan Turvey Trophy, formerly the Isthmian League Cup, has run since 1975 and involves all Isthmian League teams.

Former members[edit]

Several previous members of the Isthmian League have reached the English Football League. In its earlier years, the Football League didn't directly promote teams from the Non-League system on merit; instead, holding regular elections, for which any Non-League side could apply to enter. In practice, only the most ambitious non-League sides put themselves forward for election,[7] and success was uncommon (outside of divisional expansions, from 1945 to its abolition in 1987, only seven clubs were successful in vying for admission to the League). No Isthmian League member ever put themselves forward for election to the Football League, but Wimbledon were elected as a Southern League member, having left the Isthmian League in 1964.[7]

The first ex-Isthmian League team to reach the Football League was Wimbledon in 1977, followed subsequently by Maidstone United (1989), Wycombe Wanderers (1993), Yeovil Town (2003), Dagenham & Redbridge (2007), Aldershot Town (2008), Stevenage (2010), and AFC Wimbledon (2011). Sutton United, who had been in the Isthmian League as recently as 2011, became the most recent former member to be promoted to the Football League, winning promotion in 2021.

Team Isthmian League seasons Isthmian League Titles Highest division reached First Season EFL Honours Major Cup Honours Current Division
Dagenham & Redbridge 1907–92; 1996–2000 19
  • 1 as Dagenham & Redbridge (1999–2000)
  • 3 as Ilford (1906–07, 1920–21, 1921–22)
  • 9 as Leytonstone (1919, 1937–38, 1938–39, 1946–47, 1947–48, 1949–50, 1950–51, 1951–52, 1965–66)
  • 3 as Walthamstow Avenue (1945–46, 1952–53, 1954–55)
  • 2 as Leytonstone & Ilford (1981–82, 1988–89)
  • 1 as Redbridge Forest (1990–91)
EFL League One 2007-08 none none National League
Wimbledon 1921–64 8 (1930–31, 1931–32, 1934–35, 1935–36, 1958–59, 1961–62, 1962–63, 1963–64) Premier League 1977–78 Division 2

Division 3

Division 4

FA Cup defunct
Wycombe Wanderers 1921–85; 1986–87 8 (1955–56, 1956–57, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1973–74, 1974–75, 1982–83, 1986–87) EFL Championship 1993–94 none none EFL League One
Maidstone United 1959–71 0 Fourth Division 1989–90 none none defunct

Successor club Maidstone United currently play in the National League South

Sutton United 1963–86; 1991–99; 2001–04; 2008–11 5 (1966–67, 1984–85, 1985–86, 1998–99, 2010–11) EFL League Two 2021–22 none none EFL League Two
Stevenage 1984–1994 as Stevenage Borough 1 (1993–94) EFL League One 2010–11 none none EFL League Two
Yeovil Town 1985–88; 1995–97 2 (1987–88, 1996–97) EFL Championship 2003-04 League Two none National League
Aldershot Town 1992–2003 1 (2002–03) EFL League Two 2008–09 none none National League
AFC Wimbledon 2004–08 0 EFL League One 2011–12 none none EFL League Two

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The big shake up of non-League football confirmed". Pitchero. Pitch Hero Ltd. 16 May 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  2. ^ "English Non-League Archive 1965–98". city.ac.uk. Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  3. ^ "Bostik signs sponsorship deal with the Isthmian Football League". Bostik.com. 2 July 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Introducing 'Pitching In' - the new partner of the Isthmian Football League". 3 September 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  5. ^ "Record-breaking Ryman era to end – The Ryman Isthmian Football League". isthmian.co.uk. 14 January 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  6. ^ Elliott, Sam (19 January 2017). "End of the Ryman era as longest-running sponsors quit after 20 years". The Non-League Football Paper. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  7. ^ a b "A HISTORY OF ADMISSION TO THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE". Non League Matters. Retrieved 2 October 2021.


External links[edit]