Isthmian League: General Information

The Isthmian League was founded in 1905 as the first competition for amateur teams in the London area, although its dominance in this role was challenged by the Spartan League and the Athenian League. The split between amateur and professional clubs was still strict at this level, so that neighbouring clubs, one professional and one amateur, would never meet in league competition.

The Isthmian League was one of the few leagues to challenge the dominance of Northern League teams in the F.A. Amateur Cup: four IL clubs (Clapton, Dulwich Hamlet, Ilford, Leytonstone) had 9 semi-final appearances each, bettered only by the Northern League's Bishop Auckland.

The League grew slowly but steadily until 1972, when it had 22 members. The abolition of the distinction between the professional and amateur games in 1974 has not had a detrimental effect on the Isthmian League. Indeed, since 1972 it has expanded rather faster, having a nominal 88 members at present, though finances are a problem for many members and fairly frequently the membership roster is left short through resignations. But if it was anticipated that there would be a large amount of intermingling between the Southern and Isthmian Leagues, this has also failed to come about, even though their catchment areas overlap. No Isthmian League clubs were involved in setting up the Alliance Premier League in 1979, although the F.A. Trophy was won by Isthmians in 1979/80 (Dagenham) and 1980/81 (Bishop's Stortford), and the 1981/82 winners (Enfield) had just that season defected from the Isthmian League.

Since 1984/85, however, the Isthmian League has been fully integrated into the Pyramid, the champion enjoying automatic promotion to the Alliance Premier League (subject to satisfying certain criteria). The lowest of the Isthmian's 4 divisions also accepts applications from various leagues which have been assigned to the Isthmian arm of the Pyramid. Since 1986/87 the numbers of admissions are:

Other leagues assigned to the Isthmian arm of the Pyramid are the Chiltonian League, the Hertfordshire County Senior League, the Surrey County League and the Middlesex County League. These do not have direct access to the IL. Instead, ambitious teams apply to Sp, CC, Ex or SM, according to their geographical location, and work their way up from there.

The status of the Isthmian League is equal to that of the Southern League {SL} (also Beazer Homes League) and the Northern Premier League {NP} (also Multipart League, HFS Loans League, Unibond League).

There is more history in the archive index.

Maintained by Russell Gerrard: