Formed in 1905, The Isthmian League soon became the primary amateur league in the South of England.
Starting, as many early leagues did, in a small manner with six clubs, the league had to survive a crisis after only two seasons, when three of the six all left to join the Amateur Football Assocation. Luckily, replacements were found, and a year later, the league expanded to 10 teams.
Since then, the league has usually had many more clubs wanting to join than it has vacancies. For a long period, membership was by invitiation only, many ambitious clubs being unable to convince existing members that they deserved a place at the expense of an existing club. The closed shop situation was not really broken until the 1950s when Barking and Bromley joined. A few new clubs followed, including no less than 4 in 1963, mainly from the Athenian League.
In 1973 the league took a step many had been clamouring for for decades - a second division was formed, again absorbing mainly Athenian League clubs. Since then, further expansion and eventual assimilation into the national pyramid system has seen the structure of the league form into a very strong league of several divisions, the top division being a direct feeder to the Football Conference.
The amateur status of the league, maintained until the distinction between professional and amateur players was abolished in 1974, meant that the member clubs all had the F.A. Amateur Cup to compete for, and very successful they were too. On no less than 30 occasions did an Isthmian club pick up the Cup, Clapton leading the way with 5, closely followed by Dulwich Hamlet with 4.
After a swathe of re-organisations of non-league football, the clubs of the Isthmian League were split between the F.A. Trophy and the F.A. Vase. Dagenham in 1979-80, followed by Bishop's Stortford the year after were the first Isthmian clubs to take the Trophy at Wembley. Yeading are the only Isthmian club to lift the Vase, while Southall, Oxford City and Berkhamsted Town have all been losing finalists. Since 2006, all Isthmian clubs play in the Trophy.
Although it's geographic coverage has shifted somewhat due to the re-organisation of the non-league pyramid, the league is currently the highest regional league for a large swathe of the South East of England, covering clubs from the South Midlands to the South Coast, and from the New Forest eastwards to the North Sea.
Currently the league consists of 3 divisions of up to 24 clubs each, a Premier Division and two Division Ones split North and South.
There is an excellent archive with huge amounts of detail about the Isthmian League from 1988 to date available at : www.isthmianarchive.co.uk
|1923-24||St Albans City|
|1926-27||St Albans City|
|1927-28||St Albans City|
|1957-58||Tooting & Mitcham United|
|1959-60||Tooting & Mitcham United|
|Season||Division One||Division Two|
|1974-75||Wycombe Wanderers||Staines Town|
|Season||Premier Division||Division One||Division Two|
|1977-78||Enfield||Dulwich Hamlet||Epsom & Ewell|
|1978-79||Barking||Harlow Town||Farnborough Town|
|1979-80||Enfield||Leytonstone Ilford||Billericay Town|
|1980-81||Slough Town||Bishop's Stortford||Feltham|
|1981-82||Leytonstone Ilford||Wokingham Town||Worthing|
|1983-84||Harrow Borough||Windsor & Eton||Basildon United|
|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|
|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|
|1998-99||Sutton United||Canvey Island||Bedford Town||Ford United|
|1999-00||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|
|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|
|Season||Premier Division||Division One||Division Two|
|2004-05||Yeading||A F C Wimbledon||Ilford|
|Season||Premier Division||Division One North||Division One South|
|2006-07||Hampton & Richmond Borough||A F C Hornchurch||Maidstone United|
|2007-08||Chelmsford City||Dartford||Dover Athletic|
|2009-10||Dartford||Lowestoft Town||Croydon Athletic|
|2010-11||Sutton United||East Thurrock United||Metropolitan Police|
|2011-12||Billericay Town||Leiston||Bognor Regis Town|
|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|
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