|Southern Football League|
|2009–10 Southern Football League|
Division One South & West
Division One Midlands
|Number of Teams|
|Level on Pyramid|
|Level 7 and Level 8|
|Southern League Cup|
|Current Champions (2008-09)|
|Corby Town (Premier
Truro City (D1 South & West)
Leamington (D1 Midlands)
The structure of the Southern League has changed several times since its formation in 1894, and currently there are 66 clubs which are divided into three divisions. The Premier Division is at Level 3 of the National League System (NLS), and is a feeder division, mainly to the Conference South but also to the Conference North. Feeding the Premier Division are two regional divisions, Division One South & West and Division One Midlands, which are at Level 4 of the NLS. These divisions are in turn fed by various regional leagues.
For sponsorship reasons, from 1 July 2009, the Southern League will be known as the Zamaretto Football League following a sponsorship deal with ICB Ltd. In addition, the League Cup competition will be known as the Red Insure Cup.
Professional football (and professional sport in general) developed more slowly in Southern England than in Northern England. Professionalism was sanctioned by the The Football Association as early as 1885, but when The Football League was founded in 1888 it was based entirely in the North and Midlands with the establishment of County Football Association's in the South being firmly opposed to professionalism.
Woolwich Arsenal (nowadays simply Arsenal) were the first club in London to turn professional in 1891 and were one of the prime motivators behind an attempt to set up a Southern League to mirror the existing Northern and Midlands based Football League. However, this venture failed in the face of opposition from the London Football Association and Woolwich Arsenal instead joined the Football League as its only representative south of Birmingham in 1893. Additionally, an amateur league, the Southern Alliance was founded in 1892, with seven teams from the region, but that folded after one incomplete season.
Nonetheless, another attempt was made to form the Southern League, and this time it was successful. A competition for both professional and amateur clubs was founded in 1894 under the initiative of Millwall Athletic (now simply Millwall). Initially only one division was envisaged, but such was the enthusiasm, that eventually two divisions were formed. The sixteen founder members were:
2nd Scots Guards withdrew before the first season started and were replaced by Southampton St Mary's. Woolwich Arsenal attempted to add their reserve side to the second division but this application was refused.
The Southern League soon became the dominant competition outside The Football League in Southern and Central England. In 1907, it accepted Bradford Park Avenue, a northern club, as a member, reflecting its senior position at the time. Of all the original founder members, five – Gillingham (as New Brompton were renamed), Millwall, Reading, Southampton and Swindon Town – are now Football League clubs.
Whilst still a Southern League club, Tottenham Hotspur became the first and so far only team to win the FA Cup after the establishment of the league as a non-League club. This happened in 1901, although Southampton reached the final in 1900 and 1902 showing the strength of the Southern League. The relative strengths of the two leagues was during this period elucidated through the annual Charity Shield. Out of the six meetings the respective league champions had in the Shield, however, only one was won by the Southern League champions - Brighton & Hove Albion, in 1910, and this remains their only national honour to date.
In 1920, virtually the entire top division of the Southern League was absorbed by the Football League to become that league's new Third Division. A year later the Third Division was expanded and regionalised. The Third Division clubs from the previous season became the Third Division South, with the addition of the Third Division North.
For the next six decades, the Football League and Southern League would exchange a limited number of clubs as a result of the older league's re-election process. From 1920 onward, the Southern League's status as a semi-professional league was firmly established.
With its clubs seeking a more regular means of advancing to the Football League, in 1979 the Southern League became a feeder to the new Football Conference along with the Isthmian League and the Northern Premier League, and the top Southern clubs of the day joined the new league. In turn, the Conference would eventually succeed in becoming a feeder to the Football League. The league lost more of its top clubs in 2004 when the Conference added two regional divisions below the existing Conference National, the Conference South and Conference North.
Listed below are the clubs currently competing in the three divisions of the Southern League, for the 2008–09 season.
|Season||Division One||Division Two|
|1894-95||Millwall Athletic||New Brompton|
|1895-96||Millwall Athletic||Wolverton L & NWR|
|1896-97||Southampton St Mary's||Dartford|
|1897-98||Southampton||Royal Artillery Portsmouth|
For the 1898-99 season, Division Two was divided into London and South-West sections, with a playoff contested between the winners of each section.
|Season||Division One||Division Two (London)||Division Two (SW)||Division Two Playoff|
|1898-99||Southampton||Thames Ironworks||Cowes||Thames won 3-1|
For the 1899-00 season, the league reverted to the old format.
|Season||Division One||Division Two|
|1904-05||Bristol Rovers||Fulham Reserves|
|1907-08||Queens Park Rangers||Southend United|
|1908-09||Northampton Town||Croydon Common|
For the 1909-10 season, Division Two was split into an 'A' section and a 'B' section, with the winners of each section contesting a play-off for the Division Two championship.
|Season||Division One||Division Two (A)||Division Two (B)||Division Two Playoff|
|1909-10||Brighton & Hove Albion||Stoke||Hastings & St Leonards||Stoke won 6-0|
For the 1910-11 season, the league again reverted back to the previous format.
|Season||Division One||Division Two|
|1911-12||Queens Park Rangers||Merthyr Town|
|1912-13||Plymouth Argyle||Cardiff City|
|1913-14||Swindon Town||Croydon Common|
At the end of the 1919-20 season, the majority of the teams in the First Division moved into the new Third Division of the Football League. The Southern League was therefore split into two national sections for England and Wales, with the winners of each section contesting a playoff for the Southern League championship.
|Season||English Section||Welsh Section||Championship Playoff|
|1920-21||Brighton & Hove Albion Reserves||Barry||Brighton won 2-1|
|1921-22||Plymouth Argyle Reserves||Ebbw Vale||Plymouth won 3-0|
|1922-23||Bristol City Reserves||Ebbw Vale||Ebbw Vale won 2-1|
For the 1923-24 season, the league was split into two regional sections, with the winners of each section contesting a playoff for the Southern League championship.
|Season||Eastern Section||Western Section||Championship Playoff|
|1923-24||Peterborough & Fletton United||Yeovil & Petters United||Yeovil won 3-1|
|1924-25||Southampton Reserves||Swansea Town Reserves||Southampton won 2-1|
|1925-26||Millwall Reserves||Plymouth Argyle Reserves||Plymouth won 1-0|
|1926-27||Brighton & Hove Albion Reserves||Torquay United||Brighton won 4-0|
|1927-28||Kettering Town||Bristol City Reserves||Kettering won 5-0|
|1928-29||Kettering Town||Plymouth Argyle Reserves||Plymouth won 4-2|
|1929-30||Aldershot Town||Bath City||Aldershot won 3-2|
|1930-31||Dartford||Exeter City Reserves||Dartford won 7-2|
|1931-32||Dartford||Yeovil & Petters United||Dartford won 2-1|
|1932-33||Norwich City Reserves||Bath City||Norwich won 2-1|
For the 1933-34 season an extra section, the Central Section was introduced to provide additional fixtures. The Central included teams from the other two sections and did not contribute to the overall championship.
|Season||Eastern Section||Western Section||Central Section||Championship Playoff|
|1933-34||Norwich City Reserves||Plymouth Argyle Reserves||Plymouth Argyle Reserves||Plymouth won 3-0|
|1934-35||Norwich City Reserves||Yeovil & Petters United||Folkestone||Norwich won 7-2|
|1935-36||Margate||Plymouth Argyle Reserves||Margate||Margate won 3-1|
For the 1936-37 season, the Eastern and Western sections were merged into a single division. Additional fixtures were obtained through the Midweek Section which did not contribute to the overall championship.
|Season||Southern League||Midweek Section|
|1937-38||Guildford City||Millwall Reserves|
|1938-39||Colchester United||Tunbridge Wells Rangers|
For the 1945-46 season, the Midweek Section was not played due to power restrictions after the Second World War.
|1957-58||Gravesend & Northfleet|
For the 1958-59 season the Southern League was again divided into two sections: North-Western and South-Eastern. The winners of each section contested a playoff for the Southern League championship
|Season||North-Western Section||South-Eastern Section||Championship Playoff|
|1958-59||Hereford United||Bedford Town||Bedford won 3-0|
The following season saw the two sections merged to form a Premier Division, and a new Division One introduced.
|Season||Premier Division||Division One|
|1959-60||Bath City||Clacton Town|
|1960-61||Oxford United||Kettering Town|
|1961-62||Oxford United||Wisbech Town|
|1963-64||Yeovil Town||Folkestone Town|
|1967-68||Chelmsford City||Worcester City|
|1968-69||Cambridge United||Brentwood Town|
|1969-70||Cambridge United||Bedford Town|
|1970-71||Yeovil Town||Guildford City|
For the 1971-72 season Division One was regionalised.
|Season||Premier Division||Division One North||Division One South|
|1971-72||Chelmsford City||Kettering Town||Waterlooville|
|1972-73||Kettering Town||Grantham||Maidstone United|
|1974-75||Wimbledon||Bedford Town||Gravesend & Northfleet|
|1977-78||Bath City||Witney Town||Margate|
For the 1979-80 season, thirteen Premier Division clubs joined the newly-formed Alliance Premier League. The Premier Division and Division One were subsequently merged, and two regional divisions formed.
|Season||Midland Division||Southern Division|
|1979-80||Bridgend Town||Dorchester Town|
For the 1982-83 season, the Premier Division was re-introduced, above the regional divisions.
|Season||Premier Division||Midland Division||Southern Division|
|1982-83||Leamington||Cheltenham Town||Fisher Athletic|
|1983-84||Dartford||Willenhall Town||Road-Sea Southampton|
|1984-85||Cheltenham Town||Dudley Town||Basingstoke Town|
|1985-86||Welling United||Bromsgrove Rovers||Cambridge City|
|1986-87||Fisher Athletic||VS Rugby||Dorchester Town|
|1987-88||Aylesbury United||Merthyr Tydfil||Dover Athletic|
|1988-89||Merthyr Tydfil||Gloucester City||Chelmsford City|
|1989-90||Dover Athletic||Halesowen Town||Bashley|
|1990-91||Farnborough Town||Stourbridge||Buckingham Town|
|1991-92||Bromsgrove Rovers||Solihull Borough||Hastings Town|
|1992-93||Dover Athletic||Nuneaton Borough||Sittingbourne|
|1993-94||Farnborough Town||Rushden & Diamonds||Gravesend & Northfleet|
|1994-95||Hednesford Town||Newport County||Salisbury City|
|1995-96||Rushden & Diamonds||Nuneaton Borough||Sittingbourne|
|1996-97||Gresley Rovers||Tamworth||Forest Green Rovers|
|1997-98||Forest Green Rovers||Grantham Town||Weymouth|
|1998-99||Nuneaton Borough||Clevedon Town||Havant & Waterlooville|
|1999-00||Boston United||Stafford Rangers||Fisher Athletic|
For the 2000-01 season, the regional divisions were renamed the Western and Eastern divisions.
|Season||Premier Division||Western Division||Eastern Division|
|2000-01||Margate||Hinckley United||Newport IOW|
|2001-02||Kettering Town||Halesowen Town||Hastings Town|
|2002-03||Tamworth||Merthyr Tydfil||Dorchester Town|
|2003-04||Crawley Town||Redditch United||King's Lynn|
|2004-05||Histon||Mangotsfield United||Fisher Athletic|
|2005-06||Salisbury City||Clevedon Town||Boreham Wood|
For the 2006-07 season, the two regional divisions were renamed Division One Midlands and Division One South & West.
|Season||Premier Division||Division One Midlands||Division One South & West|
|2006-07||Bath City||Brackley Town||Bashley|
|2007-08||King's Lynn||Evesham United||Farnborough|
|2008-09||Corby Town||Leamington||Truro City|
The league structure has changed several times over the years, and currently consists of a Premier Division at step 3 of the pyramid, with Division One South & West and Division One Midlands at step 4. The winners of the Premier Division, together with the winners of a playoff, are promoted to the Conference North or Conference South, depending on their location.
Clubs relegated from the Southern League can be placed in any of the fourteen leagues below, but in practice it is likely to be one of the following (based on geography):
From time to time, clubs outside the promotion and relegation positions based at the geographical edges of the Southern League will be compelled to leave the League by the NLS Committee, should it be necessary for them to compete in the Northern Premier or Isthmian Leagues so as to correct any imbalances brought on by the geographical distribution of the teams promoted and relegated to this level. Teams in the Northern Premier or Isthmian Leagues have also been entered into the Southern League for the same reason.