Eastern Counties Football League

Eastern Counties Football League
Country  England
Founded 1935
Divisions Premier Division (1935–present)
Division One (1988–present)
Number of teams 42
21 (Premier Division)
21 (Division One)
Level on pyramid Levels 9–10
Feeder to Isthmian League Division One North
Relegation to Anglian Combination
Cambridgeshire League
Essex & Suffolk Border League
Suffolk & Ipswich League
Domestic cup(s) League Cup
First Division Cup
Current champions Norwich United (Premier Division)
Wivenhoe Town (Division One)
Website thurlownunnleague.co.uk
2016–17 season
The area covered by the Eastern Counties League is coloured in cream.

The Eastern Counties Football League, currently known as the Thurlow Nunn League for sponsorship purposes, is an English football league at levels 9 and 10 of the English football league system. It currently contains clubs from Norfolk, Suffolk, northern Essex and eastern Cambridgeshire, and is a feeder to Division One North of the Isthmian League.



During the early part of the 20th century there were several leagues covering East Anglia, including the Norfolk & Suffolk League, the East Anglian League, the Essex & Suffolk Border League and the Ipswich & District League, whilst some of the larger clubs (including Ipswich Town and Cambridge Town) played in the Southern Amateur League. Suggestions of forming a league to cover the whole region had been made since the early 1900s, but intensified after Norwich City were promoted to Division Two of the Football League in 1934 and saw a significant rise in attendances.[1] During the 1934–35 season there was a strong movement in Harwich and Ipswich for the formation of such a league and after canvassing, a 'Meeting of Representatives of East Anglian Football Clubs' was held at the Picture House in Ipswich on 17 February 1935.[1] The ten clubs in attendance were Cambridge Town, Harwich & Parkeston and Ipswich Town from the SAL, Colchester Town and Crittall Athletic from the Spartan League, and Gorleston, Great Yarmouth Town, King's Lynn, Lowestoft Town and Norwich CEYMS from the Norfolk & Suffolk League. Although Cambridge Town and Norwich CEYMS later decided against joining, a further four clubs were recruited; Bury Town and Thetford Town from the Norfolk & Suffolk League, Chelmsford City from the London League and Clacton Town from the Ipswich & District League.[2]

Early years

The first season commenced on 31 August 1935 and ended with Harwich and Lowestoft level at the top of the league with 26 points each. Although Lowestoft had a better goal average, the championship was decided by a play-off match held at Layer Road on 29 August 1936. The match ended in a 3–3 draw and the two were declared joint champions and allowed to hold the trophy for six months each.[1] At the end of the first season Ipswich left to join the Southern League and were replaced by their reserve team.

At the end of the 1936–37 season there were concerns about the league's viability. All five Essex clubs had left to join the newly established Essex County League, whilst Thetford had resigned after finishing bottom of the league, leaving only six remaining clubs. However, four new members (Colchester United reserves, Cromer, Newmarket Town and Norwich CEYMS) were recruited. The following season the league expanded to 13 clubs as two of the Essex clubs rejoined (the Essex County League had been a failure with only five members completing the season and was not continued).[1]

The 1939–40 season started on 26 August, but was abandoned after the outbreak of World War II. After the war ended in May 1945 a meeting was held in late June to see whether the league could be restarted. However, a further meeting on 28 July decided that too few clubs were ready to resume footballing activities as many were unable to sign players and some grounds remained under the control of the armed forces. The league finally resumed for the 1946–47 season with ten clubs.

Later development

Prior to the start of the 1948–49 season the league was expanded to 16 clubs, largely through the addition of the 'A' teams of four London clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. The following season Gillingham reserves joined, becoming the only Kent-based club to ever play in the league (Dartford also applied to join at the same time, but were rejected).[1] In 1951 the league gained its first Cambridgeshire club with the admission of Cambridge United, and by 1955–56 the league was up to 20 clubs, of which five were reserve or 'A' teams. Although a succession of clubs leaving the league saw it reduced to fourteen clubs by 1964, it quickly regained numbers and was back up to 18 members two years later. In 1976 the league was renamed the Eastern League, but returned to its original name six years later. The league was among the first to be sponsored by an external company when, in the late 1970s, it was sponsored by local building societies Magnet and Planet, and Town and Country.[3] More recently it has been sponsored by building supplies company Jewson, Ridgeons, and current sponsor Thurlow Nunn.

Expansion to two divisions

There had been occasional discussions about adding a second division to the league since its formation, but in 1983 it seemed about to become a reality. However, it was then delayed by the Football Association at the request of the Essex Senior League. The idea was resurrected during the 1987–88 season and a meeting was held to discuss it on 22 November 1987. The league contacted 21 clubs who were considered potential members, of which fifteen were interested in joining. A further four clubs were contacted and another (Long Sutton Athletic) asked for details. Ultimately fourteen clubs applied to join the league; eight from the Peterborough & District League (Downham Town, Huntingdon United, King's Lynn reserves, Ortonians, Somersham Town, Warboys Town and YaxleyParson Drove also applied later in the year, but were rejected), three from the Anglian Combination (Diss Town, Fakenham Town and Wroxham) and three from the Essex & Suffolk Border League (Bury Town reserves, Hatfield Peverel and Little Oakley). All were accepted except Hatfield Peveral and Little Oakley, whose grounds were deemed inadequate, whilst Ortonians later withdrew after difficulties getting their reserve and 'A' teams into the Peterborough & District League. Mildenhall Town from the Cambridgeshire League and Ipswich Wanderers from the Ipswich Sunday League were later invited to join, whilst Halstead Town were persuaded to transfer from the Essex Senior League after Ortonian's late withdrawal, allowing the inaugural Division One season in 1988–89 to start with 14 clubs.

Current members

Premier Division

Division One

Former clubs

Sixty-six clubs have previously played in the Eastern Counties League, including several reserve and 'A' teams. The league's geographical span has previously stretched from Gillingham in Kent in the south to Boston in Lincolnshire in the north and Eynesbury in Cambridgeshire in the west. In the 1940s and 1950s it contained up to four 'A' teams from London.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Moved up to the Isthmian or Southern League
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 Resigned from the league
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Transferred to a different league at the same level.
  4. 1 2 Replaced by relegated first team.
  5. 1 2 Did not return to league after World War II.
  6. 1 2 3 Merged to form a new club.

Membership rejected

Between its inception in 1935 and the formalisation of promotion and relegation between the ECL and its feeder leagues in 1983, several clubs applied to join the Eastern Counties League but were rejected, or were approached by the league but turned the offer of admission down. These included:[4]

Applied to the league but were rejected

Approached by the league but declined


The champions of the league have been as follows:[2]

Season Premier Division Division One League Cup
1935–36Harwich & Parkeston/Lowestoft Town (joint) Harwich & Parkeston
1936–37Crittall Athletic Harwich & Parkeston
1937–38Lowestoft Town Great Yarmouth Town
1938–39Colchester United Reserves Lowestoft Town
1939–46No competition due to World War II
1946–47Chelmsford City Reserves Colchester United Reserves
1947–48Chelmsford City Reserves Colchester United Reserves
1948–49Chelmsford City Reserves Tottenham Hotspur 'A'
1949–50Tottenham Hotspur 'A' Chelsea 'A'
1950–51Gillingham Reserves Wisbech Town
1951–52Gillingham Reserves Gillingham Reserves
1952–53Gorleston Colchester United Reserves
1953–54King's Lynn King's Lynn
1954–55Arsenal 'A' Lowestoft Town
1955–56Peterborough United Reserves Gorleston
1956–57Colchester United Reserves Peterborough United Reserves
1957–58Tottenham Hotspur 'A' Colchester United Reserves
1958–59Colchester United Reserves Tottenham Hotspur 'A'
1959–60Tottenham Hotspur 'A' Chelmsford City Reserves
1960–61Tottenham Hotspur 'A' March Town United
1961–62Tottenham Hotspur 'A' Bury Town
1962–63Lowestoft Town Abandoned due to severe weather
1963–64Bury Town Bury Town
1964–65Lowestoft Town Haverhill Rovers
1965–66Lowestoft Town Lowestoft Town
1966–67Lowestoft Town Lowestoft Town
1967–68Lowestoft Town Chatteris Town
1968–69Great Yarmouth Town Lowestoft Town
1969–70Lowestoft Town Sudbury Town
1970–71Lowestoft Town Wisbech Town
1971–72Wisbech Town Wisbech Town
1972–73Gorleston Hertford Town
1973–74Sudbury Town Clacton Town
1974–75Sudbury Town Great Yarmouth Town
1975–76Sudbury Town Lowestoft Town
1976–77Wisbech Town Sudbury Town
1977–78Lowestoft Town Lowestoft Town
1978–79Haverhill Rovers Cambridge City Reserves
1979–80Gorleston Ely City
1980–81Gorleston Great Yarmouth Town
1981–82Tiptree United Tiptree United
1982–83Saffron Walden Town Sudbury Town
1983–84Braintree Town Lowestoft Town
1984–85Braintree Town Tiptree United
1985–86Sudbury Town Tiptree United
1986–87Sudbury Town Sudbury Town
1987–88March Town United Braintree Town
1988–89Sudbury TownWroxhamSudbury Town
1989–90Sudbury TownCornard UnitedSudbury Town
1990–91Wisbech TownNorwich UnitedHiston
1991–92WroxhamDiss TownNorwich United
1992–93WroxhamSudbury WanderersWroxham
1993–94WroxhamHadleigh UnitedWoodbridge Town
1994–95Halstead TownClacton TownWisbech Town
1995–96Halstead TownGorlestonHalstead Town
1996–97WroxhamEly CityHarwich & Parkeston
1997–98WroxhamIpswich WanderersWoodbridge Town
1998–99WroxhamClacton TownSudbury Wanderers
1999-00HistonTiptree UnitedWroxham
2000–01AFC SudburySwaffham TownLowestoft Town
2001–02AFC SudburyNorwich UnitedClacton Town
2002–03AFC SudburyHalstead TownWroxham
2003–04AFC SudburyCambridge City ReservesMaldon Town
2004–05AFC SudburyIpswich WanderersHalstead Town
2005–06Lowestoft TownStanway RoversAFC Sudbury
2006–07WroxhamWalsham-le-WillowsLowestoft Town
2007–08Soham Town RangersTiptree UnitedNeedham Market
2008–09Lowestoft TownNewmarket TownLeiston
2009–10Needham MarketGreat Yarmouth TownNeedham Market
2010–11Leiston Gorleston Wisbech Town
2011–12Wroxham Godmanchester Rovers Stanway Rovers
2012–13Dereham TownCambridge University PressWisbech Town
2013–14Hadleigh UnitedWhitton UnitedNewmarket Town
2014–15Norwich UnitedLong MelfordNorwich United
2015–16Norwich UnitedWivenhoe TownMildenhall Town






  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Blakeman, M (2010) The official history of the Eastern Counties Football League 1935–2010 Volume I ISBN 978-1-908037-01-5
  2. 1 2 England – Eastern Counties League RSSSF
  3. Williams, Tony (1978). The FA Non-League Football Annual 1978–79. MacDonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd. p. 212.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Blakeman, M (2010) The official history of the Eastern Counties Football League 1935–2010 Volume II ISBN 978-1-908037-02-2

External links

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