Isthmian League

Isthmian League
Founded 1905
Country  England
Other club(s) from  Guernsey
Divisions Premier Division
North Division
South Central Division
South East Division
Number of teams 82
Premier Division: 22
North Division: 20
South Central Division: 20
South East Division: 20
Level on pyramid 7–8
Promotion to National League North
National League South
Relegation to Combined Counties League
Eastern Counties League
Essex Senior League
Southern Combination League
Southern Counties East League
Spartan South Midlands League
Domestic cup(s) FA Cup
FA Trophy
Isthmian League Cup
Current champions Billericay Town (Premier)
AFC Hornchurch (North)
Carshalton Athletic (South)
2018–19 Isthmian League

The Isthmian League is a regional men's football league covering London, East and South East England featuring mostly semi-professional clubs. It is sponsored by Bostik, and therefore officially known as the Bostik League.

It was founded in 1905 by amateur clubs in the London area. It 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 clubs could compete, only cups. 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 8 March 1905. Membership to the league was through invitation only. The league was strongly dedicated to amateurism; the champions did not even receive a trophy or medals; the league motto was honor sufficit.

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 amateur 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 which was the top regional semi-professional league. By 1922 the 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 and Delphian League all adding a Classical flavour to amateur football competition.

The league began to admit professionalism in the 1970s. A second division of sixteen clubs was formed in 1973 and a third division followed in 1977. The league 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 retained the title (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 again to Second and Third Divisions in 1991.

In 2002, the league was restructured again, 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 non-league National League System, 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.

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, was ever present in the Isthmian League since its foundation, but they moved to the Essex Senior League for the 2006–07 season. Dulwich Hamlet, who 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 FA 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 starts play in the 2018–19 season.[1]

Current members


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 Postponed 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 Postponed due to 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

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.


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] and Bostik (2017–present).[3]

Ryman also sponsored the Isthmian Youth League and Isthmian Development League upon their creations in 2007 and 2013 respectively.[4] 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.[5]

League Cup

The Isthmian League Cup has run since 1975 and involves all Isthmian League teams.

Development League

The Isthmian Development League was formed in 2013 for Under-21 teams as an expansion from the Isthmian Youth League. Split into two divisions, Enfield Town and Maidstone United were named inaugural champions with 10 teams in each league. The league has since expanded to 13 teams in the North Division and 14 teams in the South Division for the 2016–17 season, and to eight teams in the Central Division for the 2017–18 season.

AFC Hornchurch were crowned Development League Cup champions during the 2014–15 season, and remain the only victors to date. The competition did not run for the proceeding two years. The Champion of Champions fixture was added the following season, with Worthing beating Billericay Town 5–3 on penalties following a 2–2 draw.


Season North Division South Division
2013–14 Enfield Town Maidstone United

For the 2014–15 season, the Development League Cup was added.

Season North Division South Division League Cup
2014–15 Grays Athletic Maidstone United AFC Hornchurch
Season North Division South Division Champion of Champions
2015–16 Billericay Town Worthing Worthing
2016–17 Billericay Town Leatherhead Billericay Town
Season North Division Central Division South Division Champion of Champions
2017–18 Wingate & Finchley Burgess Hill Town Margate Margate

Youth League

The first sign of youth football in the Isthmian League emerged in 1990 with the creation of the Isthmian Youth Cup. Epsom & Ewell emerged 4–0 victors over Bromley to become inaugural champions, and Lewes claimed success the following year with a 3–1 win against Clapton. However, the competition would disband for 14 years before a return in 2005.

The Isthmian Youth League was formed in 2007 to allow youth teams to compete. The competition began as an individual league with Leatherhead crowned as the first champions, but has undergone regular changes to complete its current four division set-up. There are 38 teams competing during the 2016–17 season.

A Champions of Champions competition was set-up ahead of the 2012–13 season, allowing an overall champion to crowned from the Central, East, South and West divisions. Sutton United are the reigning champions, after topping the Youth Central table with 16 wins from 18 games. Staines Town are the most successful club to date, with five titles and one Champions of Champions victory.

Sutton United became the first team to complete an 'Invicibles' season after 10 wins and three defeats in the 2009–10 Central Division. Corinthian also achieved the feat with nine victories and five draws in the 2011–12 East Division. Thamsmead Town became the first team to record an undefeated season without winning the league title in the 2014–15 East Division. 14 victories and four draws meant they missed out on the title by a single point to Corinthian due to their superior win rate.


Season Youth Cup
1990–91 Epsom & Ewell
1991–92 Lewes

For the 2005–06 season, the Youth Cup returned after a 14-year absence.

Season Youth Cup
2005–06 Dulwich Hamlet
2006–07 Worthing

For the 2007–08 season, the Youth League was formed.

Season Youth League Youth Cup
2007–08 Leatherhead Leatherhead

For the 2008–09 season, the Youth League was reorganised into North-East and South-West regions

Season North-East Division South-West Division Youth Cup
2008–09 Staines Town Tonbridge Angels AFC Wimbledon

For the 2009–10 season, the North-East and South-West divisions were reorganised into Central, East, South and West regions.

Season Central East South West Youth Cup
2009–10 Sutton United Maidstone United Lewes Woking Woking

For the 2010–11 season, the South and East regions were merged into the South-East Division.

Season Central South-East West Youth Cup
2010–11 Kingstonian Burgess Hill Town Staines Town Walton & Hersham

For the 2011–12 season, the South-East Division was reorganised into East and South regions.

Season Central East South West Youth Cup
2011–12 Kingstonian Corinthian (Kent) Burgess Hill Town Staines Town Sutton United

For the 2012–13 season, the Champion of Champions competition was added.

Season Central East South West Champion of Champions Youth Cup
2012–13 Sutton United Sevenoaks Town Bognor Regis Town Staines Town Staines Town Staines Town
2013–14 Sutton United Corinthian (Kent) Burgess Hill Town Hayes & Yeading United Burgess Hill Town Sutton United
2014–15 Woking Corinthian (Kent) Bognor Regis Town Hayes & Yeading United Bognor Regis Town Brentwood Town
2015–16 Sutton United Corinthian (Kent) Burgess Hill Town Staines Town Sutton United Staines Town
2016–17 Metropolitan Police Tonbridge Angels Whitehawk Hampton & Richmond Borough Metropolitan Police Whitehawk
2017–18 Woking Maidstone United Whitehawk Wealdstone Whitehawk Lewes

See also


  1. "The big shake up of non-League football confirmed". Pitch Hero Ltd. 16 May 2017.
  2. "English Non-League Archive 1965–98". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  3. "Bostik signs sponsorship deal with the Isthmian Football League". Bostik. 2 July 2017.
  4. "Record-breaking Ryman era to end – The Ryman Isthmian Football League". Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  5. "Ryman's 20-year sponsorship deal with the Isthmian League to end". Daily Mail. Retrieved 4 February 2017.


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