billsportsmaps.com

May 3, 2011

Conference National, 2010-11 season: the 1 automatically-promoted club, and the 4 play-off clubs.

Filed under: 2010-11 English Football,Eng-5th level,Football Stadia — admin @ 7:00 pm

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2011 Conference, top of the table


Play-off Final – AFC Wimbledon 0-0 Luton Town in AET/Wimbledon 4-3 on penalties/AFC Wimbledon are promoted to the Football League (!!!). On 21 May 2011 at City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester, attendance 18,195.
From Guardian.co.uk, by Sachin Nakrani, ‘AFC Wimbledon beat Luton on penalties to reach the Football League‘.

Play-off results…
[Wrexham 0-3 Luton Town, at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, Wales, attendance 7,211]
From Conference National site, ‘Luton Take Commanding First-Leg Lead‘.
[Luton Town 2-1 Wrexhan / Luton Town wins on 5-1 aggregate, at Kenilworth Road, Luton, Bedfordshire, attendance 9,078']
From Guardian.co.uk, by Sachim Nakrani, ‘AFC Wimbledon beat Luton on penalties to reach the Football League‘.

[Fleetwood Town 0-2 AFC Wimbledon, at Highbury Stadium in Fleetwood, Lancashire, attendance 4,112]
From BBC.co.uk, ‘Fleetwood 0-2 AFC Wimbledon‘.
[AFC Wimbledon 6-1 Fleetwood Town / Wimbledon wins on 8-1 aggregate, at Kingsmeadow, Kingston upon Thames, southwest London, attendance 4,538.]
From Bluesqfootball.com, ‘ AFC Wimbledon 6-1 Fleetwood (agg 8-1) ‘.

Leading scorers in 2010-11 Conference National (goals scored in all competitions)…
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Photo credits – Matt Tubbs – crawleyobserver.co.uk . Alan Connell – thisisgrimsby.co.uk . Danny Kedwell – surreyherald.co.uk – ‘AFC Wimbledon skipper Danny Kedwell taunts big-spending Crawley Town’ . Magno Vieira – Derrick Thomas at picasaweb.google.com, via fleetwoodtownfc.com/Photo Gallery .

In the play-offs, second-place AFC Wimbledon’s grassroots-supporters-versus-club-stealing-franchise-operators creation-story and somewhat meteoric rise through the lower reaches of Non-League Football is pretty well known {see this, ‘Wimbledon march onwards and upwards with firm grasp of history – AFC Wimbledon, owned entirely by fans, have risen from adversity to be in touching distance of the Football League‘, from Guardian.co.uk, 4 Sept 2010, by Louise Taylor.}. AFC Wimbledon will face Fleetwood Town, a club who also have been progressing up the football pyramid in an impressive manner. Now Fleetwood Town has a visible monument to this rise…just look, on the map page, at that swank new curved-roof main stand (now called the Parkside Stand) at Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium in coastal Lancashire.

Fleetwood Town FC are known (brilliantly) as The Cod Army. This incarnation of the club is it’s third, with the first FTFC existing from 1908 to 1976, and FTFC (II) existing from 1977 to 1996. FTFC (III) began in 1997-98 in the North West Counties Football League Division Two, [then a 9th Level league/now a 10th Level League], as Fleetwood Freeport FC (for sponsorship reasons). The club’s first promotion ensued in their second season, in 1999, and in 2002, their name became Fleetwood Town FC (III). Successive promotions in 2005, and then in 2006 saw Fleetwood Town reach the 7th Level in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. Two seasons later, in 2008, Fleetwood Town won automatic promotion to the Conference North by winning the Unibond Norhern Premier League. At this point, the Cod Army already had an impressive fan base for a club at this level, drawing 721 per game in 2007-08 – this in a league that was averaging 313 per game {see these tables from Tony’s Non-League Football site, here}.

Fleetwood Town had a rough go of it initially in the 6th Level in 2008-09, and had to replace their manager with Burnley youth team manager (and former Blackpool and Tranmere midfielder) Micky Mellon. By January, 2010, Mellon became the first full-time manager at Fleetwood, and began introducing a number of new signings that upped the talent quotient in this corner of Lancashire. That season included Fleetwood Town’s first-ever appearance in the FA Cup Second Round Proper, with a then-record-crowd of 3,280 at Highbury Stadium seeing them fall to League One’s Harlepool United by a score of 2-3. Fleetwood Town’s fan base had grown to the point where the club was averaging 920 per game in league matches, and further progress on the pitch was shown by their 8th place finish in their first season in Conference North.

As a pre-season favorite for promotion in 2009-10, Fleetwood Town established themselves as one of the two strongest teams in the league, with the other being their very nearby rivals, Southport FC (who are 28 km./17 miles down the road in Merseyside). Because of the demise of Leeds-based Farsley Celtic during the 2009-10 Conference North season, that club’s matches were expunged, and this led to Fleetwood Town losing 3 points and missing out on automatic promotion, with Southport instead winning the league title [Southport are now back down, having been relegated, by goal difference, out of the Conference National on Saturday, 30 April, 2011]. Fleetwood won promotion via the play-offs, though, winning it over Alfreton Town at Highbury Stadium last May in front of 3,592 (the current record crowd there).

Chairman Andy Pilley announced that the club would go full-time for 2010-11. The club’s best acquisition after their squad went full-time was Brazilian-born striker Magno Vieira, whom Fleetwood Town purchased from then-relegated Ebbsfleet United. [Vieira went on to score 22 goals for Fleetwood Town this season, which was fourth-best in the league.] By September, Fleetwood Town were in 3rd place. Captain George Milligan, out the door after the full-time policy began, returned in November, 2010. But a string of poor results led them to drop to the edge of the play-off places by the new year. However, Fleetwood Town caught fire near the close of the season and finished with 7 wins in their last 8 matches, and with the late season stumbling of Darlington. York City, and Kidderminster, Fleetwood ended up in the final play-off spot. Fleetwood Town ended up with a 1,753 per game average attendance, up 29 percent from last season.

The other play-off match-up features two clubs both with over three-quarters of a Century of League history, but each with recent financial melt-downs… Bedfordshire’s Luton Town FC and Wrexham FC, of North Wales. Of the two, Luton Town have the bigger fan base – biggest in all of Non-League, currently, having drawn above 6,000 per game in both seasons the club has spent outside the League since their near-extinction, administration, and 30-point deduction in 2008-09. Luton Town, known as the Hatters, are the second club in the modern era to have First Division history (with 16 seasons in the English top flight, last in 1991-92) and then subsequent Non-League status [the other one was Oxford United]. Wrexham’s League history only goes up to the 2nd Level (with 4 seasons there, between 1978 and 1982), but the Red Dragons, North Wales biggest club, have 100 seasons of League history, versus 84 seasons accumulated by Luton Town. Wrexham drew 3,061 per game this season (up 7 percent), and are probably hurt by the fact that their Racecourse Ground (capacity 15,500) is too large for their current fan base. Luton Town actually have the exact opposite problem… because of how built-up the area is around their ground, Kenilworth Road (Luton being part of the heavily-populated commuter belt north of London), the club cannot expand or realistically renovate there. This has been a problem at Luton Town for decades. This is how cramped Kenilworth Road is…one of the ground’s entrances is through a portal under a block of flats! That is the Oak Stand entrance, and you can see that entrance-way in one of the three photos for Luton Town on the map page.

Meanwhile, Luton Town look to be of the woods, financial-crisis-wise, but it looks like Wrexham’s problems have only begun. So much so that there was talk for a while that the Conference top brass would not even allow Wrexham to compete in the play-offs, but they will.

Crawley Town FC spent 500,000 pounds on a now-successful bid for promotion to the Football League. This was more than all 23 other Conference National clubs, combined, spent on new signings this season. This was in fact more than all 24 League Two clubs, combined, spent on new signings. Their manager, Steve Evans, is a manners-challenged convicted felon who got his previous for cooking the books at Boston United a decade ago {see this, ‘Shamed manager keeps his job‘ (bbc.co.uk/Lincolnshire, 4 Nov. 2006).

As noted in the following article from TwoFootedTackle.com…’There’s a genuine feeling within the lower levels of the game that Evans’ criminal record should have resulted in a lifetime ban.’ {see this article from Jan.30 2011, ‘Why many neutrals won’t be cheering on Crawley in the FA Cup’}.

From When Saturday Comes site, ‘Creepy Crawley buying their way out of the Conference‘ (WSC.co.uk, 13 Jan. 2011, by Matt Ramsay).

Photo credits for map page -
Crawley Town/Broadfield Stadium…Broadfield Stadium interior photo with railing in foreground from WorldGroundHop.blogspot.com, here. Main Stand photo by Peer Pawelczyk at EuroPlan-online.de, here, via Soccerway.com,, here. Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.

AFC Wimbledon/Kingsmeadow…Tempest Stand at Kingmeadow photo from DoingThe106.com, here, via ConferenceGrounds.co.uk, here. Main Stand from 100groundsclub.blogspot.com, here. Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.

Luton Town/Kenilworth Road…Oak Stand entrance (between row houses) from SoccerWord.com. Kenilworth Road interior photo from Stadiums.Football.co.uk, here. Aerial image of Kenilworth Road from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.

Wrexham/Racecourse Ground… Interior photo from WikiStadiums.org, here. Photo of Mold Road Stand with The Kop (terrace) in foreground from Soccerway.com, here. Aerial image of Racecourse Ground from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.

Fleetwood Town/Highbury Stadium…New stand [construction on parts of the is stadium still ongoing] photo from Flower Design Events sire, here. Architect’s rendering of Highbury Stadium with new Main Stand from FWP Group.co.uk, here. Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘Conference National‘.
Thanks to Soccerway.com, for attendance figures.
Thanks to the BBC London Non-League Football show.

October 28, 2010

2010-11 Conference National (aka Blue Square Bet Premier League) – Stadia map.

Filed under: 2010-11 English Football,Eng-5th level,Football Stadia — admin @ 5:40 pm

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2010-11 Conference National



The Seasons in 5th Level statistic I have included in each club’s profile box on the map page needs some clarification. There was no automatic promotion into the Football League before 1986-87, and because there was no nationwide Non-League division before 1979-80, it is impossible to determine what was the 5th level of English football prior to the formation of the Alliance Premier League in 1979-80 (so the Seasons in 5th Level statistic is for the 32 seasons from 1979-80 to 2010-11). The Alliance Premier League was given one promotion spot to the old Fourth Division in 1986-87, and at that point the APL changed it’s name to the Conference National (and began inserting a sponsors name into their official name, which is currently the Blue Square Bet Premier League). A second promotion spot was added starting in the 2002-03 season. There is talk these days of adding a third promotion spot, and the argument can be made that this is overdue.

The only way clubs could get into the League before 1986-87 was via election, and there was quite a bit of leeway for continually poor-performing League clubs in the lower reaches of the old Fourth Division. A whole lot of deserving Non-League football clubs never got the shot to play in the League. These days, tiny and unheralded clubs that had no League history prior to 1987 can and do move up the football pyramid…clubs like Dagenham & Redbridge and Yeovil Town in the 3rd Level (ie, League One), and seven clubs in the 4th Level (ie, League Two)… Barnet, Burton Albion, Cheltenham Town, Macclesfield Town, Morecambe, Stevenage, and Wycombe Wanderers. Meanwhile, clubs that were once mainstays of the lower Leagues, such as Darlington, Grimsby Town, Luton Town, Mansfield Town, Wrexham, and York City – well, they are finding it very hard to get back into the League. [Actually, Luton Town has spent more seasons in the top two levels of the League than the lower two levels, so their continuing stay in the wilderness of Non-League football must be especially frustrating to their 6,000-plus regular supporters.] To put it another way, the Conference is on the upswing…in terms of on-field quality, and in terms of fan support.

From Two Hundred Percent.net, from 11th October, 2010, by Ian King, ‘League Two and the Blue Square Premier: The Blurring of the Lines‘.

Usually when I make maps with club profile boxes, I include each club’s national titles and national cup titles. That would just end up being wasted space here (the only club here with a ‘major’ title is Luton Town, who won the League Cup in 1988, but I never list the League Cup anyway). So I decided to use the space for 2 topical categories…each club’s all-time best FA Cup run, and best FA Cup run in the last 20 seasons (with all FA Cup runs which reached the 5th Round or higher listed; and all joint-best runs listed). Which is just in time for the 2010-11 FA Cup First Round Proper, to be played the weekend of November 5th through the 7th. My map on 2010-11 FA Cup First Round Proper will be posted Wednesday evening, 3rd November. 14 of the 24 Conference National clubs are in the FA Cup 1st Round {BBC/FA Cup, here}, as well as 18 other, lower-placed Non-League clubs.

2009-10 average attendances (from league home matches) are shown at the bottom, center of the map page. The following link has current 2010-11 Conference National average attendances…{from www.mikeavery.co.uk/Divisional Attendance – scroll one quarter down the page to find the fifth box of stats which is 2010-11 Conference Premier Average Home Attendance, here}.
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Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘2010-11 Football Conference‘.

Thanks to the Footy Mad.co.uk sites, for each club’s league history and cup history data, http://www.footymad.net/blue-square-premier-news/ . Note: this following set of pages on the Football365 site was also very helpful for data, even if it is 9 years now since it has been updated [set to all-time 4th tier, up to 2001-02], http://stats.football365.com/hist/tier4/attable.html

Thanks to mikeavery.co.uk, for 2009-10 attendance figures and attendance rankings.

Thanks to Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye view…21 of the football grounds photos on the map page are from this feature. I can’t get images by going to Bing.com, though…I get them by going to each club’s page at en.wikipedia.org, clicking onto the club’s ground, then clicking on the blue-lit numbers of the football ground’s geographical coordinates. There are no Bing.com Bird’s Eye view images for 3 Conference grounds…Barrow’s Holker Road, and Forest Green Rovers’ New Lawn, so for those I had to settle for images via Google Earth satellite view; and Rushden & Diamonds’ Nene Park, so I used an image submitted by jim21 at the en.wikipedia.org page on Nene Park.

April 27, 2010

Football Conference (aka Blue Square Premier League)-Top of the table, 2009-10 season.

Filed under: 2009-10 English Football,Eng-5th level,Football Stadia — admin @ 12:34 pm

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Stevenage Borough will play in the Football League next season for the first time in their 35 year history. Stevenage Borough were famously denied entrance into the Football League in 1996, when, after winning the Conference, their automatic promotion was denied due to their ground being below standards. So 14 years later, it’s payback time for Stevenage and their fans. In the interim, the club had improved their ground, Broadhall Way, to the point where it was considered one of the top facilities in the Conference. This season, Stevenage saw a 30% increase in average attendance, to a very respectable 2,589 per game.
That still was far below the two turnstile giants of Non-League football these days…Luton Town and Oxford United, who both have averaged in the 6,000s this season. Average attendances of the top 5 clubs in the Conference are listed on the left on the map page. The following link shows average attendances in the Conference this season…Conference Premier Attendance Grids and Charts 2009-2010 (www.mikeavery.co.uk).

Stevenage Borough FC page at en.wikipedia.org

The four clubs competing for the other promotion spot to League Two are: Luton Town, Oxford United, Rushden & Diamonds, and York City. All four of the playoff clubs have League history, and their relegations from the League are noted in their club profile box. Also listed are the number of seasons spent in each of the top 5 levels of English football, and the club’s 09/10 kits. Also included in the profile boxes are three photos of each club’s home ground.
On the map I have listed the 23 clubs that competed in the 2009-10 Conference. The odd-number of clubs is due to the mid-season expulsion of Chester City.
That made relegation a matter of three other clubs, and those relegated this season were: Grays Athletic, Ebbsfleet United, and Forest Green Rovers. However, Salisbury City were penalized for failing to pay creditors, and were relegated two levels to the Southern Premier League, in the 7th Level. This was made official on 12th June. Forest Green Rovers, as the highest-placed relegated club, were thus re-instated into the Blue Square Premier League for the 2010-11 season.
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Play Off dates…The Play-Off begins Thursday, 29th April, with Rushden & Diamonds v. Oxford United; and York City v. Luton Town. ; 2nd Legs Monday, 3rd May. Play-Off final Sunday, 16th May, at Wembley Stadium. 2010 Conference Play Off fixtures, at Football Conference site .
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Thanks to Football Supporter’s Federation Ground Guide,FSF Ground Guide. Thanks to Soccerway, England- Conference National/Venues (www.soccerway.com). Thanks Google Maps, Google Earth view.

Thanks to World Stadia.com, www.worldstadiums.com. Thanks to RDFC Fans Blog, Rushden & Diamonds fansite. Thanks tor RDFC official site, www.thediamondsfc.com.

Thanks to Sam Mason at Flickr.com, Sam Mason @ Flickr.com. Thanks to jim2000 at Panoramio.com, jim2000 @ panoramio.com. Thanks to OxKits.co.uk, OxKits.com, A visual history of the kits of Oxford United.

Thanks to SoccerWorld.com, soccerword.com. Thanks to UK European Football Stadiums, stadiums.football.co.uk/Non League Stadiums. Thanks to Bing.com, Luton Town FC, Kenilworth Road (Birds Eye view).

Thanks to Campdavemorecambe at Flickr.com,‘[Photo of]Broadhall Way, Stevenage Borough. Thanks to Ray Stanton at Panoramio.com, [Photo of] Stevenage Borough FC. Thanks to Virtual Globetrotting, Broadhall Way (satellite view).

Thanks to Mike Avery Non-League Football Stats site, http://www.mikeavery.co.uk.
Thanks to Jeremy, at Albion Road site, for tech support help, Albion Road, Fan’s guide to Football Clubs around the world .

May 16, 2009

England: the Conference (aka the Blue Square Premier League), the 4 clubs promoted for the 2009-2010 season.

Filed under: Eng-5th level — admin @ 2:00 pm

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The map shows the four clubs that have gained promotion from the Conference North and the Conference South (the 6th Level of English football).  They will play in the 2009-2010 season of the Conference,  also known as the Blue Square Premier League,  which is the 5th Level of English football,  and the highest level of Non-League football.  Two of these clubs,  AFC Wimbledon and Gateshead,  have now gained back-to-back promotions. 

The English Football Conference Playoffs Final is Sunday, 17th May,  at Wembley Stadium in London .  Here is an article from the Guardian.co.uk, by Mikey Stafford:  ’Cambridge and Torquay face off in final that’s too close to call’ {click here}.   [The winner of this match gains promotion from the Conference to the Football League’s League Two (the 4th Level).

Thanks to Tony’s English Football Site {click here}.   Thanks to TheLinnets.co.uk,  for the Non-League turnstile count list {click here ,  for the list of top drawing clubs in Non-League Football  (263 clubs)}.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at Wikipedia {click here (set at Football Conference 2009-10)}. 

April 29, 2009

England: 2008-09 Conference (aka Blue Square Premier League): the Promoted Club and the 4 Clubs in the Playoffs.

Filed under: 2008-09 English Football,Eng-5th level,Football Stadia — admin @ 12:53 pm

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The 2008-’09 Conference season went down to the wire.  Burton Albion just held on to win the league and gain the sole automatic promotion.  Burton’s form had plummeted following ex-manager Nigel Clough’s January exit.  It will be the Staffordshire club’s first-ever appearance in the Football League.  The town of Burton upon Trent did once have League representation,  though,  from 1892 to 1910,  with Burton Swifts and Burton United.  BSFC merged with Burton Wanderers to form BUFC, in 1901,  but the club folded in 1910.  

Burton Albion were formed in 1950.  The club was promoted from the 6th Level Southern League,  to the Conference,  in 2002.  They moved into the all-mod-cons Pirelli Stadium in 2005.  This ground has a capacity of 6,500,  2,000 of which is seated.  Burton upon Trent is located in Staffordshire,  38 km. (23 miles) north of Birmingham.  It sort of sits on the divide between the East Midlands and the West Midlands.  The town’s population is 61,000 (2001 estimate),  and is best known for it’s brewing heritage.  It is currently home to 5 brewers {see this}.  So one can see why the club is called the Burton Albion Brewers.

Four clubs will battle for the second promotion spot.  The four playoff clubs are a good representation of the rather wide variation of clubs in the 5th Level these days.  Two clubs,  Torquay United and Cambridge United,  boast League history. 

Cambridge United have spent 35 seasons in the League,  including 9 seasons in the 2nd Level.  CUFC were relegated out of the League,  to the Conference,  in 2005.  The club boasts a decent sized fan base, and had the second highest average attendance in the Conference in 08/09,  drawing 3,410 per game.  The highest average attendance CUFC attained was in 1991-92,  when they began their last, 2-season spell in the old Division One (the 2nd Level),  and drew 7,084 per game to the Abbey Stadium.  This was the Cambridge United that featured in the influential book Fever Pitch,  by Nick Hornby. 

Torquay United spent 73 consecutive seasons in the League,  but were never able to get higher than the 3rd Level.  They were relegated in 2007,  and made the playoffs last season,  losing in the final to Exeter City.  The club had a good FA Cup run this season, making it to the Fourth Round.   {see this post I made in January,  which includes a Torquay United gallery}.

One club, in the ’09 Conference playoffs,  Histon,  is a little over 100 years old,  but has never been higher than this level,  and this is just their second season in the Conference.  The club is located just a couple miles outside of Cambridge.  Their Bridge Road ground is the second-smallest ground in the League (Lewes’ ground was smaller, but they are going back down to the 6th Level in 09/10).   

The fourth club in the Conference playoffs,  Stevenage Borough,  were formed relatively recently (in 1976),  but have been trying for 15 years to get into the promised land of the League.  [Note: Wikipedia has the wrong 08/09 home jersey design for SBFC; I would try to get it changed if I knew how, but it's pretty late in the season anyway.]  Stevenage Borough were denied entrance to the League in 1993-’94),  when they won the Conference,  because their ground was not up to standards.  Now Broadhall Way is one of the best grounds in Non-League football.  Stevenage is in Hertfordshire,  43 km. (27 miles) north of London.

As far as average attendance goes,  four of the top 8 drawing clubs in the Conference are on this map.  Histon is the exception,  and as they are near the bottom of the attendance list,  the small club from the village of Impington can be seen as a club punching above their weight.  But considering how Histon beat Leeds United in the FA Cup earlier this season,  no one should be surprised if Histon advance in the playoffs.

Blue Square Premier League average attendance,  2008-2009 season {click here  (ITV.stats.football) }.   [Note: the top list is by percent capacity; the second list is by average.]    For the second straight season,  the highest-drawing Conference club was Oxford United.  Had it not been for a five-point deduction for roster irregularities,  Oxford would be in the playoffs right now,  as the chairman groused about Monday {see this (BBC)}.  Then he apoligized for calling the Conference “poxy”  {see this}.  He should realize that no club is too big for any league,  something Leeds United fans,  and maybe,  Newcastle United fans,  will need to come to grips with.

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The Conference playoffs begin Thursday, 30th April,  with Stevenage Borough v. Cambridge United.  The other match-up features Torquay United v. Histon,  on Friday, 1st May.  The second leg of both match-ups is on the following Monday, 4th May.  The final will be at Wembley, date TBD.

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While on the subject of Non-League football,  there is one story that should not go unmentioned…the fourth promotion in seven years for AFC Wimbledon  {see this article,  by David Conn in the Guardian.co.uk site}. 

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Thanks to Tony’s English Football site for gate figures and fixtures information {click here}.   Thanks to the contributors to the pages at Wikipedia {click here (set at Conference National page)}.   Thanks to BoroGuide.com {click here},  for the information on the 08/09 kit.   Thanks to Flick.com {click here}.   Thanks to Panoramio.com {click here}.   Thanks to the Geobytes site,  for their City Distance tool {click here}.   Thanks to the footy-mad site,  for League history of clubs {click here}.  Thanks to Jeremy at Albion Road site {click here},  for finding the first site last Sunday that had the Conference playoffs schedule  (at Tony’s English Football site,  of course). 

Thanks to VirtualGlobetrotting {click here}.  

January 15, 2009

Conference National (aka Blue Square Premier League): 2008-09 season, zoom map with club profiles.

Filed under: 2008-09 English Football,Eng-5th level,Zoom Maps — admin @ 11:56 am

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..
The 5th Level of English football is still popularly known as the Conference, although for sponsorship reasons, it’s been officially called the Blue Square Premier League since the summer of 2007. The Alliance Premier League, established for the 1979-1980 season, was the first attempt to create, for the 5th Level, a fully national league under the Football League (which is Levels 1 through 4 of the English football pyramid). Clubs were drawn from the Northern Premier League and the Southern League. 7 years later, the Alliance changed it’s name to the Football Conference. That same season, 1986-87, the League (ie, Levels 1-4) recognized the marked improvement in the quality of play in the 5th Level by finally accepting direct promotion and relegation between the Conference and the League. In the late spring of 1987, Scarborough became the first club to be promoted to the League, supplanting Lincon City. [Scarborough FC is now defunct, they were wound up in June, 2007.] In 2002-03, a second promotion spot was added, decided by a four-team playoff competition.

[ At the end of each season, two Conference clubs are promoted, and two 4th Level League clubs are relegated. Concurrently, four Conference clubs are relegated to either the Conference-North or the Conference-South, and four clubs, two from each of these 6th Level Leagues, are promoted to the Conference. ]  

Up until then, for the first century of professional football in England, Non-League clubs had to apply for election to the League. As the League expanded to a 2nd Level (the Second Division, in 1892-93),  to a 3rd Level (the Third Division, in 1920-21), and to a 4th Level (the Fourth Division, in 1958-59), the promotion/ relegation gate was kept shut below these levels.  

The belated implementation of promotion/ relegation, in 1986-87, between Levels 4 and 5, has proven to be a fair development, as this list shows  {Click here (list from Wikipedia: ‘Former Conference clubs now in The Football League‘) }. There are 5 clubs on the list that have risen two levels above the Conference, to League One…Carlisle United, Cheltenham Town, Colchester United, Hereford United, and Yeovil Town. And there is one former Conference club that has risen 3 levels:  Doncaster Rovers.  Had election to the League remained in force, what are the odds that all these clubs would have been elected to the League during the last 22 seasons ?  Nil. And the fact that some rather good-sized clubs are now stuck in the Conference, like Oxford United, further attests to the improvement in the standard of play in the 5th Level.

Blue Square Premier League official site, {Click here}.

Currently, all but one of the 24 clubs in the Conference have played just over half their 46-game season.  Staffordshire’s Burton Albion currently lead the Conference, by 13 points. The Brewers seem destined for their first promotion to the League. However, Burton just lost their manager, Nigel Clough, to struggling 2nd Level club Derby County (a club Nigel’s legendary father Brian managed four decades ago).

Currently in the four playoff places are…2nd place: Histon, a tiny club from just outside of Cambridge, in just their second season in the 5th Level. The Stutes made it to the FA Cup Third Round this season, beating fallen giants Leeds United in the Second Round, before bowing out to Swansea City. Histon and newcomers Lewes have the two smallest grounds in the Conference, both have capacities under 4,000. 3rd place: Kidderminster Harriers (from Worcester, about 15 miles south-west of Birmingham). The Harriers recently had a 5-season spell in the League, which ended in 2005. 4th place: Torquay United, a former Third and Fourth Division club (with a 73-consecutive seasons spell in the League,  ending in 2007).  Torquay are also still alive in the FA Cup Fourth Round (as is Kettering Town). Torquay hail from the Dorset coast, on ‘England’s Riviera’ (a pretentious phrase, I know, but palm trees do grow there, and it is a bit posh and touristy). 5th place: Cambridge United. A sizable club, for his level, with the third highest average gate this season (Oxford United gets the biggest crowds by far, and another former League club,  Wrexham, gets the second largest gates). Cambridge United had a 17-season spell in the League (including 8 seasons in the 2nd Level). The club figured prominently, circa 1980′s-1990′s, in the genre-defining book “Fever Pitch” by Nick Hornby.

[ Note: Crawley Town were deducted 4 points recently for fielding an unregistered player.  The decision might be appealed, so some sites still have CTFC in 4th place, not 6th place. {see this (BBC) }.  But it will almost certainly stand, as the Blue Square has been very stringent about these things lately {See this (twohundredpercent site: 'Little Rays of Sunshine',  from  Jan. 12th, 2009) } . ]

Within touching distance of the playoff places, currently,  are Crawley Town (of Surrey), Wrexham (of North Wales),  and Stevenage Borough (just north of London, in Hertfordshire).

Wikipedia’s page on The Conference National, {Click here}.

My favorite site for lower league and Non-League football news… http://www.twohundredpercent.net/

Note: on the map, I have added two small rectangular boxes, above (if applicable) and below each club’s kits. The upper box lists if and when the club was ever in the League. The lower box lists when and how the club became a current member of the Conference, whether by promotion from the Conference-North or Conference-South (the 6th Level)…depicted with a blue-edged box, or relegated from the League…depicted with a red-edged box. There is no club that has been in the Conference throughout it’s whole 29-season history.  Northwich Victoria, from Cheshire, have been in the Conference for the most seasons: 28 (voluntary relegation in 2005/ promotion back to the Conference in 2006). Altrincham, from Greater Manchester, have been in the Conference for a total of 24 seasons. Kidderminster have been in the Conference for 23 seasons (and are the only one of the 7 founding members of the Alliance/current members of the Conference to have since gained a promotion to the League, for a 5-season span ending in 2005). These three clubs were founding members of the Alliance Premier League (now called the Conference) in 1979. Four more clubs currently in the Conference were also founding members…Barrow, Gravesend and Northfleet (now called Ebbsfleet United), Kettering Town, and Weymouth.

Thanks to Tony’s English Football Site  {Click here}.   Thanks to Conferencegrounds.co.uk  {Click here}.

Thanks to the family of FootyMad.net sites, for their invaluable League History sections on each club  {Click here…set at clubs in the Conference}. And thanks to the Football Conference History Database for having the list of the first 7 seasons in the Alliance/ Conference {Click here}.

Finally, thanks to those anonymous persons who have taken the time to contibute to Wikipedia’s pages on Conference clubs…this was the only place I could find a full set of kits for the 2008-09 Conference season.  

January 2, 2008

Blue Square Premier League. (The Conference). 2007-08 Clubs.

Filed under: Eng-5th level — admin @ 7:09 am

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This Map was made in connection with the Pitch Invasion site, which is featuring Non-League Football all this week.
See these figures for England, here.)  **(For Germany, here {scroll to the bottom, for lower leagues}.)   **(For all Non-League clubs’ gate figures, click here.)Media coverage is decent for non-league football.  In 2006, Setanta Sports began broadcasting 2 live matches a week, in-season.  Sky Sports News shows standings of Levels 5 through 7 on their sidebar scroll, and it is not unusual to see a feature, or a report, on a non-league club, especially during FA Cup season.  Then the romance of a minnow taking on a big club is played to the hilt.  You’d have to be a pretty cynical fan not to get a kick out of seeing Exeter City take Manchester United, at Old Trafford, to a 3rd-round replay, then hold their own in their quaint West Country home grounds, as they did in January, 2005.  Not incidently, the windfall from all this helped Exeter City avoid dissolution.  

There are 24 teams in the “Conference” (as most call it).     First place gains automatic promotion to the League (into League Two, the 4th Level Level).  A playoff decides the second promotion spot.  Last season, east London club Dagenham & Redbridge won automatic promotion, and Lancashire-based Morecambe won the playoff, at Wembley.  It is both clubs’ first time ever in the “League.”   Almost all of the clubs in the 5th Level (Conference) field squads composed of full-time players.  Invariably, some of the smaller clubs, as well as most every other club in the 6th Level on down, field part-time players.   In the Conference, the bottom 4 clubs are sent down to the 6th Level, to either the Northern or Southern League, depending on location of the club in question. 

Here is a chart. ** Click on it,  for the FULL CHART (Enlarged). **

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There are several clubs that have successfuly “graduated” from the Conference, in recent years.  I have copied a list of these clubs, from Wikipedia . **To see it, click on the thumbnail icon below.**

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Aldershot lead the Conference, as 2008 begins, followed by Torquay United, 4 points behind.  **Click here, for Conference standings.

** Here are 2 good articles about 2 Non-League clubs I like, Forest Green (because they are an underdog club, with a quirky ground),and Stevenage Borough (because they were shafted by the League [denied promotion to League, due to inadequete facillities, in 1996], and have overcome this.) BBC, on Forest Green, click here.   BBC, on Stevenage Borough, click here.

Thanks to King’s Lynn FC Official site for gate figures…Go Linnets !      Also thanks to Tony’s English football Site, which i just discovered yesterday.  It has great maps of all the lower levels of Non-League (no logos, alas) .  Thanks to BBC,  FourFourTwo,  and Wikipedia, for information, and images.  Thanks to Tom Dunmore, of Pitch Invasion, for the impetus, and encouragement

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