West Midlands (Regional) League

The West Midlands (Regional) League is an English association football competition for semi-professional and amateur teams based in the West Midlands county, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and southern Staffordshire. It has three divisions, the highest of which is the Premier Division, which sits at step 6 of the National League System, or the tenth level of the overall English football league system.

West Midlands (Regional) League
Founded1889
CountryEngland
DivisionsPremier Division
Division One
Division Two
Number of teams49
Level on pyramidLevel 10 (Premier Division)
Level 11 (Division One)
Level 12 (Division Two)
Feeder toMidland League Premier Division
Domestic cup(s)Premier Division League Cup
Division One League Cup
Division Two League Cup
Current championsTividale (Premier)
Worcester Raiders (Division One)
Gornal Colts (Division Two)
(2018-19)
WebsiteOfficial website
2019–20

The league was formed in 1889 as the Birmingham & District League to cater for teams in Birmingham and the surrounding area, but soon became established as one of the strongest leagues outside the Football League itself, with teams from as far afield as Bristol and Wales taking part. After the Second World War it absorbed the rival Birmingham Combination to become firmly established as the leading league in the area, but a gradual decline in its status began in the late 1950s and it now operates at a much lower level than in its heyday.

The league currently acts as a feeder to the Midland Football League Premier Division, to which one team is promoted to each season. Approximately fifty teams compete in the league each season, with new members regularly joining from a number of lower, more local leagues.

History

Early years

In the late 1880s, Birmingham and the surrounding region boasted many of the country's strongest football teams. Six of the region's leading clubs joined the first two national leagues set up in England, the Football League and the Football Alliance, but there were still many teams in the area keen to participate in league play. On 31 May 1889 a meeting took place at Birmingham's Grand Hotel with the view to forming a Birmingham & District League. A total of 17 clubs were invited but only 13 attended, of which 12 were selected to form the new league, to commence play in the 1889–90 season. The one club which sent a representative to the meeting but was not invited to take part in the league, for unknown reasons, was Worcester Rovers.[1]

The 12 clubs competing in the league's inaugural season were Aston Victoria, Great Bridge Unity, Hednesford Town, Ironbridge, Kidderminster Harriers, Kidderminster Olympic, Langley Green Victoria, Oldbury Town, Smethwick Carriage Works, Unity Gas Department, Wellington St George's, and Willenhall Pickwick. Although Kidderminster Olympic topped the final table, no championship was awarded as a number of fixtures had not been completed.[2] This situation was to be repeated in each of the subsequent two seasons, in both of which Brierley Hill Alliance, who had joined the league for its second season, topped the table but did not win the title.[2] The early years of the league also saw new teams joining and existing ones dropping out almost every season,[3] but once the league's structure settled down, it came to be regarded as one of the strongest leagues outside the Football League itself, rivalled only by the Southern League and the Midland League.[1]

Despite the league's name, in the years prior to the First World War it came to include teams from as far afield as Bristol, Wrexham and Crewe, as well as including the reserve teams of local Football League clubs. A number of clubs which had enjoyed success in the Birmingham Combination also joined the league, which was seen as a step up to a better standard of football.[3] The league's large coverage area began to create problems in the 1930s, however, as many clubs found the long and costly journeys to away matches difficult, and began to drop out in favour of playing in leagues which covered smaller areas. In 1938, Bangor City, Worcester City, Wellington Town and the reserve teams of Cardiff City and Wrexham all resigned from the league,[3] reducing the numbers so much that instead of the usual format the organising committee decided to run two separate competitions each lasting for half of the 1938–39 season, the first named the Keys Cup and the second the League Cup.[4] By the time competitive football was abandoned in 1939 due to the outbreak of the Second World War, the rival Birmingham Combination, which had not chosen to accept teams from such a wide area, had consolidated and come to be regarded as the region's top league.[5]

Post-war years

Although the league lost further clubs to the Combination, which was quicker to restart after the war, within a few years the League had regained its position of pre-eminence in the region, increasing to almost twice its pre-war size.[1] During the 1952–53 season the League's committee proposed a merger of the two competitions, but the Combination rejected the idea, whereupon the Combination's six best teams all resigned and joined the League.[5] The Combination's committee then attempted to re-open the merger talks but, having just bolstered its ranks with six new members, the League was not interested.[5] A year later, all of the Combination's 14 remaining clubs, with the exception of West Bromwich Albion's 'A' (third) team, left to join the League, which effectively absorbed its former rival.[6] The 40 member clubs were split into Northern and Southern divisions, which a year later were re-arranged into Divisions One and Two, with promotion and relegation taking place between the two.[7]

At the end of the 1957–58 season, Burton Albion and Nuneaton Borough left to join an expanding Southern League, followed a year later by Hinckley Athletic.[8] In an attempt to consolidate the league decided to expel all remaining reserve teams, reducing to a single division of 22 clubs.[9] Four years later it changed its name to the West Midlands (Regional) League to more accurately reflect its catchment area, which now included very few teams from Birmingham or its immediate environs.[10] For the 1965–66 season the league was able to revert to a two-division structure when it rebranded its existing single division the Premier Division and added a new Division One.[9] By 1976, a steady flow of teams joining from smaller regional leagues led to Division One being split into Divisions One (A) and One (B), revised a year later to Divisions One and Two.[11]

Modern era

The Alliance Premier League was formed in 1979, pushing the Regional League further down the English football league system. Successful Regional League clubs such as Bilston Town, Hednesford Town and Halesowen Town began applying to, and being accepted into, the Southern League, reducing the Regional League to the status of a feeder league,[12] although their departures continued to be offset by a flow of new members from lower-level leagues. Reflecting the demographics of the West Midlands area, a number of British Asian teams joined the league,[13] including Sikh Hunters, England's first ever all-Sikh team.[14] At the same time the catchment areas of the Regional League and the Midland Football Combination were increasingly converging, and by the early 1990s the standard of play and geographical coverage of the two competitions were considered to be almost identical. A new competition was formed in 1994 to cater for the best clubs previously split across the two leagues, and thus the Regional League lost ten of its member clubs to the Midland Football Alliance, further reducing its own status.[15]

The reduction in numbers forced the league to revert to a two-division structure, but within two seasons numbers had grown again to the extent that Division One was split into Divisions One (North) and One (South) for the 1996–97 season,[16] a format retained until 2004 when the two Division Ones were re-organised into Division One and Division Two.[17] Although the league now operates at a level much below that which it occupied in its heyday it continues to survive and holds the distinction, jointly with the Northern League, of being the second oldest football league in existence, behind only the Football League itself.[1]

Structure

The league currently has no title sponsor. Previously it has been sponsored by Sport Italia,[18] the Wolverhampton-based Express & Star newspaper,[19] and Black Country brewery Banks's.[20] Some of the teams in the lower two divisions are reserve teams of clubs playing at a higher level.[21][22][23] Each division is contested on a double round-robin basis, with each team playing each of the other teams in the division once at home and once away. Three points are awarded for a win (increased from two with effect from the 1988–89 season),[12] one for a draw and zero for a defeat. Goal difference is used to separate teams on the same points, having replaced goal average at the start of the 1978–79 season.[24]

From the 1994–95 to 2013–14 seasons the Regional League, along with the Midland Football Combination, served as one of the two official feeders to the Midland Football Alliance. The highest-placed team which met the Alliance's entry requirements was promoted to the Alliance, and one or more teams were relegated into the Regional League from the Alliance depending on the number of clubs remaining in each league.[15] In 2014 the Alliance and Combination merged to form the Midland League,[25] and the Regional League now acts as a feeder to the top division of that league. Prior to the 2006–07 season, the Regional League's top division was defined as a step 7 league within the National League System,[26] even though it fed into the Alliance, which was graded as step 5.[27] In 2006 the Regional League was re-graded by the Football Association as a step 6 league.[28] Teams in the top two divisions are eligible to take part in the FA Cup and FA Vase as long as their grounds meet the required standards.[29]

Since reg-organisation in 1994, the Regional League has accepted applications for membership from successful teams in smaller local leagues within its catchment area. Leagues whose clubs have joined the Regional League include the Shropshire County League, the Herefordshire League, the Wolverhampton Combination, and the Kidderminster & District League. Several ambitious local Sunday league teams have also switched to Saturday play and entered the league.[30] Bewdley Town, Bromyard Town and Ellesmere Rangers have all joined from county leagues since 1994 and subsequently gone on to gain promotion to the Premier Division.[30] Regional League teams could also theoretically be relegated to the local leagues but in practice this almost never happens. The only teams in recent history to drop down to a county league have been Leominster Town, Kington Town and Hinton, who dropped down to the Herefordshire League in 2004, 2006 and 2007 respectively, although all three clubs resigned voluntarily in favour of playing in a more local league as opposed to being relegated due to finishing at the bottom of the table.[2][31]

Attendance

At one time the league attracted large crowds for matches, with 3,000 spectators watching a match between Coventry City and Shrewsbury Town in 1899.[32] By the early 1960s, despite the league's decline in status, Kidderminster Harriers were still able to attract crowds of around 1,000 fans for home matches.[33] In the modern era, however, crowds are much smaller. In the 1993–94 season Rocester averaged around 100 fans for home games, and several of the team's away matches drew crowds of less than 40.[34] Attendance figures are not currently published for league fixtures, however in the FA Vase in the 2005–06 season home attendances for Regional League teams averaged around 50, with only Wellington's match against Alvechurch of the then-existent Midland Alliance drawing over 100 spectators.[35]

Current member clubs 2018–19

The member clubs of the league for the 2018–19 season are as follows:

Premier Division

Club Town Home stadium Joined[N 1] 2017-18 position
AFC BridgnorthBridgnorthCrown Meadow201418th
Bewdley TownBewdleyRibbesford Meadows20057th
Bilston TownBilstonQueen Street201311th
Black Country RangersDudleyThe Garden Walk20114th
Cradley TownCradleyBeeches View20108th
Dudley SportsBrierley Hill[N 2]Hillcrest Avenue200616th
Dudley TownOldbury[N 3]Dell Sports Centre199817th
HaughmondShrewsburySundorne Sports Village201820th in Midland League Premier Division (Relegated)
Hereford Lads ClubHerefordCounty Ground201712th
Malvern TownMalvernLangland Stadium20113rd
Pegasus JuniorsHerefordOld School Lane Ground201119th
Pershore TownPershorePershore Community Stadium201818th in Midland League Division One (Transferred)
Shawbury UnitedShawburyLudlow Stadium201821st in Midland League Premier Division (Relegated)
Shifnal TownShifnalTrio Construction Stadium201615th
Smethwick RangersOldburyHillcrest Avenue201314th
TividaleTividaleThe Beeches20172nd
WednesfieldWednesfieldCottage Ground20175th
WellingtonWellingtonWellington Playing Fields200010th
Wem TownWemButler Sports Ground20181st in Division One (Promoted)
Wolverhampton CasualsWolverhamptonBrinsford Lane19959th
  1. Indicates the most recent occasion on which the club entered the Premier Division
  2. Currently playing in Brierley Hill but originally formed in Dudley
  3. Currently playing in Oldbury but originally formed in Dudley

League champions

Birmingham & District League

Initially the league consisted of a single division

Season Champions[36]
1889–90no championship awarded
1890–91no championship awarded
1891–92no championship awarded
1892–93Wolverhampton Wanderers Reserves
1893–94Old Hill Wanderers
1894–95Aston Villa Reserves
1895–96Aston Villa Reserves
1896–97Hereford Thistle
1897–98Wolverhampton Wanderers Reserves
1898–99Wolverhampton Wanderers Reserves
1899–1900Aston Villa Reserves
1900–01Wolverhampton Wanderers Reserves
1901–02West Bromwich Albion Reserves
1902–03Aston Villa Reserves
1903–04Aston Villa Reserves
1904–05Aston Villa Reserves
1905–06Aston Villa Reserves
1906–07Aston Villa Reserves
1907–08Aston Villa Reserves
1908–09Aston Villa Reserves
1909–10Aston Villa Reserves
1910–11Stoke
1911–12Aston Villa Reserves
1912–13West Bromwich Albion Reserves
1913–14Worcester City
1914–15Birmingham Reserves

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

Season Champions[36]
1919–20West Bromwich Albion Reserves
1920–21Wellington Town
1921–22Willenhall
1922–23Shrewsbury Town
1923–24Stourbridge
1924–25Worcester City
1925–26Cradley Heath
1926–27Stafford Rangers
1927–28Burton Town
1928–29Worcester City
1929–30Worcester City
1930–31Cradley Heath
1931–32Cradley Heath
1932–33Wrexham Reserves
1933–34Wrexham Reserves
1934–35Wellington Town
1935–36Wellington Town
1936–37Bristol Rovers
1937–38Kidderminster Harriers

Due to the number of teams having dropped dramatically, the 1938–39 season consisted of two separate "half-season" leagues. The Keys Cup was contested until Christmas and the League Cup for the remainder of the season.[37]

Season Keys Cup League Cup
1938–39Kidderminster HarriersKidderminster Harriers

The 1939–40 season was abandoned due to the outbreak of the Second World War and the league did not resume operations until 1946.

Season Champions[38]
1946–47Halesowen Town
1947–48Kettering Town
1948–49Worcester City Reserves
1949–50Hereford United Reserves
1950–51Brierley Hill Alliance
1951–52Brierley Hill Alliance
1952–53Oswestry Town
1953–54Wolverhampton Wanderers 'A'

For the 1954–55 season the league was split into two regional sections.[7]

Season Northern Section Southern Section
1954–55Nuneaton BoroughRedditch United

For the 1955–56 season the league was re-organised into Division One and Division Two.

Season Division One[39] Division Two[39]
1955–56Nuneaton BoroughTamworth
1956–57Walsall ReservesBilston
1957–58Wolverhampton Wanderers 'A'Oswestry Town
1958–59Wolverhampton Wanderers 'A'Birmingham City 'A'
1959–60Bromsgrove RoversAston Villa 'A'

The league reverted to a single-division format for the 1960–61 season.

Season Champions[40]
1960–61Bilston
1961–62Lockheed Leamington

West Midlands (Regional) League

Season Champions[40]
1962–63Lockheed Leamington
1963–64Tamworth
1964–65Kidderminster Harriers

For the 1965–66 season the league reverted to a two-division format, now comprising the Premier Division and Division One.

Season Premier Division[41] Division One[41]
1965–66TamworthWrockwardine Wood
1966–67Boston UnitedTamworth Reserves
1967–68Boston UnitedWarley
1968–69Kidderminster HarriersWrockwardine Wood
1969–70Kidderminster HarriersWarley County Borough
1970–71Kidderminster HarriersBrereton Social
1971–72TamworthWarley County Borough
1972–73BilstonTividale
1973–74AlvechurchArmitage
1974–75AlvechurchStaffordshire Police
1975–76AlvechurchWillenhall Town

For the 1976–77 season Division One was split into 'A' and 'B' sections.[42]

Season Premier Division Division One (A) Division One (B)
1976–77AlvechurchWednesfield SocialWolverhampton United

For the 1977–78 season Division One (A) and Division One (B) were re-organised into Division One and Division Two.

Season Premier Division[43] Division One[43] Division Two[43]
1977–78Hednesford TownChasetownWorcester City Reserves
1978–79Willenhall TownShifnal TownLudlow Town
1979–80Sutton Coldfield TownRushall OlympicBrewood
1980–81Shifnal TownOldswinfordBromsgrove Rovers Reserves
1981–82Shifnal TownAtherstone UnitedGKN Sankey
1982–83Halesowen TownBrewoodGreat Wyrley
1983–84Halesowen TownTipton TownHalesowen Town Reserves
1984–85Halesowen TownHarrisonsHalesowen Harriers
1985–86Halesowen TownHalesowen HarriersSpringvale-Tranco
1986–87Atherstone UnitedWestfieldsDonnington Wood
1987–88TamworthRocesterHinton
1988–89BlakenallNewport TownBroseley Athletic
1989–90Hinckley TownDarlastonHill Top Rangers
1990–91Gresley RoversCradley TownClancey Dudley
1991–92Gresley RoversIlkeston TownK Chell
1992–93Oldbury UnitedKnypersley VictoriaRushall Olympic Reserves

For the 1993–94 season Division Two was discontinued.

Season Premier Division[44] Division One[44]
1993–94Ilkeston TownStafford Town
1994–95Pelsall VillaWolverhampton Casuals
1995–96WednesfieldGoodyear

For the 1996–97 season Division One was split into two regional sections.

Season Premier Division[17] Division One (North)[17] Division One (South)[17]
1996–97WednesfieldGreat WyrleyKington Town
1997–98Lye TownBandonSmethwick Rangers
1998–99Kington TownHeath HayesWellington
1999–2000Stafford TownShawbury UnitedBromyard Town
2000–01Ludlow TownWolverhampton UnitedLedbury Town
2001–02Causeway UnitedOunsdaleSedgley White Lions
2002–03WestfieldsNewport TownBewdley Town
2003–04Malvern TownGoodrichGornal Athletic

For the 2004–05 season Division One (North) and Division One (South) were re-organised back into Division One and Division Two.


Season Premier Division Division One Division Two
2004–05[17]Tipton TownGreat WyrleyParkfields Leisure
2005–06Market Drayton TownEllesmere RangersAFC Wulfrunians
2006–07Shifnal TownDarlaston TownHeath Town Rangers
2007–08Bridgnorth TownBirchills UnitedWellington Amateurs
2008–09AFC WulfruniansWellington AmateursHanwood United
2009–10Ellesmere RangersWellington AmateursBlack Country Rangers
2010–11TividaleBlack Country RangersMalvern Rangers
2011–12Gornal AthleticWellington AmateursHaughmond
2012–13AFC WulfruniansAFC SmethwickGornal Athletic Reserves
2013–14Lye TownAFC BridgnorthAFC Ludlow
2014–15Sporting KhalsaBromyard TownKington Town
2015–16Shawbury UnitedShifnal TownNewport Town
2016–17HaughmondHereford Lads ClubTelford Juniors
2017–18Wolverhampton Sporting CommunityWem TownSikh Hunters

References

  1. Robinson, Michael (2005). Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. Soccer Books Limited. p. 88. ISBN 1-86223-125-7.
  2. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 96.
  3. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 89.
  4. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 90.
  5. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 78.
  6. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 80.
  7. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 103.
  8. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 16.
  9. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 91.
  10. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 101.
  11. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 109–110.
  12. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 93.
  13. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 94.
  14. Matthews, Tony (2006). Football Firsts. Capella. p. 121. ISBN 1-84193-451-8.
  15. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 123.
  16. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 118.
  17. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 122.
  18. "West Midlands Regional League". Express & Star. 2010-08-25. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
  19. "8/9/01 – Weakened side still earns win". The Ledbury Reporter. 2001-09-14. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  20. Bateson, Bill; Sewell, Albert. News of the World Football Annual 1986–87. Invincible Press. p. 121. ISBN 0-85543-076-1.
  21. "West Midlands (Regional) League". The Football Association. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  22. "West Midlands (Regional) League". The Football Association. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  23. "West Midlands (Regional) League". The Football Association. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  24. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 92.
  25. "Midlands 'Super League' Set For Next Season". The Non League Football Paper. 2014-04-24.
  26. Williams, Mike; Tony Williams (2007). Non-League Club Directory 2007. Tony Williams Publications Ltd. p. 599. ISBN 1-869833-55-4.
  27. Williams, Mike; Tony Williams (2007). Non-League Club Directory 2007. Tony Williams Publications Ltd. p. 833. ISBN 1-869833-55-4.
  28. "National League System" (pdf). The Football Association. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
  29. "FA Competition Administration". The Football Association. Retrieved 2010-09-19.
  30. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 94–96.
  31. "Kington Town". The Football Club History Database. Retrieved 2008-07-08.
  32. Phil Shaw (2005-04-30). "Football: A new stadium has Sky Blues looking upwards". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  33. "Kidderminster Harriers Results 1966–1967". Kidderminster Harriers F.C. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  34. "West Midlands (Regional) League – Premier Division: 1993–94 Season". Rocester F.C. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  35. Williams, Mike; Tony Williams. Non-League Club Directory 2007. pp. 938–972.
  36. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 96–102.
  37. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 102.
  38. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 102–103.
  39. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 103–105.
  40. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 105–106.
  41. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 106–109.
  42. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. p. 109.
  43. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 109–117.
  44. Robinson, Michael. Non-League Football Tables 1889–2005. pp. 117–118.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.