Essex Olympian League celebrates 50th anniversary this season
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 November 2016
League only 13 inaugural members for 1966/67 campaign and now has close to a hundred
The Prokit UK Essex Olympian League is this season celebrating its 50th anniversary. To celebrate this landmark a souvenir badge, polo shirt, jacket and history book has been issued. Details for these can be found on the league’s website www.eofl.co.uk or by emailing Scott Lanza at email@example.com.
The league came about after a meeting on 10th December 1965, that was attended by representatives from 13 clubs to discuss the formation of a new Intermediate League in Essex and it was agreed to call the league the Essex Olympian Football League.
The league was re-named the Essex Intermediate League in 1986 but reverted back to the Essex Olympian League in 2005. The 13 clubs that were at the initial meeting were Basildon & Pitsea, Billericay Town, Bishops Stortford Swifts, Bowers United, Burnham Ramblers, Collier Row, Dorstel Press, Dunmow, Essex Police, Little Waltham, Old Chelmsfordians, Sawbridgeworth and Writtle.
Of those original 13, only Bishops Stortford Swifts and Old Chelmsfordians are still members of the league. In addition to this, current president Gordon Evans was a referee in the league during the first season and he took over as honorary league treasurer in November 1966.
First president John Coward, in the foreword for the 1966/67 Handbook, said: “This new league opens up the field of competition to teams from the Mid-Essex, Harlow & District, Southend & District and Parthenon Leagues and I am quite sure it will become the Intermediate League of the County.”
Since the formation of the league, the aim has been to provide a stepping stone between junior and senior football and throughout this period many clubs have moved on into senior football with great success.
The most successful of these, it could be argued, are Billericay Town. They had been inaugural members in 1966/67 and after winning two league titles, moved into senior football when they joined the Essex Senior League.
From there they went on to win the title and also became the first club to win the FA Vase three times. The club now play in the Ryman Premier having played as high as National League South in recent years.
Concord Rangers also spent time in the Essex Olympian League before they gained senior status and moved up the pyramid. They went via the Essex Senior League, all the way through the Ryman League, before reaching the National League South and achieving a hat-trick of Essex Senior Cup wins, making them the first club in almost 50 years to achieve this accolade.
Collier Row went from the Essex Olympian League into the London Spartan League before moving into the Ryman League and they too had great FA Vase pedigree, going as far as the Semi-Finals in the 1987/88 season.
Burnham Ramblers won the first Olympian League championship in 1966/67 and have played in the Ryman League after an Essex Senior League winning campaign in 2012/13.
Bowers United, now named Bowers & Pitsea, were also inaugural members but after an Essex Senior League championship-winning season last year are playing in the Ryman North this term. They also reached the semi-finals of the FA Vase, bowing out to eventual winners Morpeth Town.
They have made a reasonable start to their campaign and have certainly prospered under the tutelage of manager Rob Small. Small made his first foray into management after an injury curtailed his football career at Southminster St Leonards - a club where he also tasted silverware as he landed the Olympian League Premier Division title in 2013/14 before moving into senior management.
Terry Spillane is another manager who has managed a club in the Essex Olympian League, as he once held the reins at Frenford Senior. He then moved to Essex Senior League side Stansted and won the league title in 2009/10. He moved onto to manage Redbridge in 2011/12 and narrowly missed out on the Ryman North play-offs.
However fans of the Motormen will always remember Spillane as the man who guided them to the second round of the FA Cup. Having started in the preliminary round, Redbridge then beat higher placed teams in every single round before putting in a brave performance at Crawley Town that ended in a 5-0 defeat.
The forerunners of Brentwood Town have played in the league as have Great Wakering Rovers, Sawbridgeworth Town and Takeley. The last team to step up into Senior Football was Wadham Lodge, who moved through the Olympian League divisions before gaining senior status in time for the 2015/16 season and joined the Essex Senior League.
It’s unlikely those who met in 1965 would have anticipated the success the league and its member clubs would enjoy over the following seasons, but as the highest Intermediate League in Essex complete 50 years, they can look forward to further success and to continue providing a high standard of football for the next 50 years.
From a modest start of just 13 teams in one division, they now have almost 90 teams spread over seven divisions ranging from the Premier Division, which is Step 7 in the National League pyramid system to an U21 Division.
Prokit UK, a local kit supplier, have been sponsors of the league since 2010 and recently renewed their sponsorship for another five years. In addition the league has now become a limited company and hope to continue providing a stepping stone for junior clubs to achieve Intermediate status and then follow the path of many of our previous members and move into senior football.
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