Southern League Division 1
The Football League was founded in 1888 to provide regular fixtures for the new professional teams from the industrial North and Midlands. As such, teams from south of Birmingham play only a limited role in its early history. The exception to this rule was Royal Arsenal, the South's second professional team (after Luton), who first attempted to form a Southern League in 1892. Reading were among the teams elected to the proposed league, along with Arsenal, Chatham, Chiswick Park, Crouch End, Ilford, Luton Town, Marlow, Millwall Athletic, Old St Mark's, Swindon Town, and West Herts. These plans were however scuppered by the regional Football Associations who maintained a strong amateur tradition. Instead Royal Arsenal joined the Football League in 1893, changing their name to Woolwich Arsenal. The Southern League was eventually formed in January 1894 following an initiative by Millwall. The founder members of the First Division were Chatham, Clapton, Ilford, Luton, Millwall, Reading, Royal Ordnance Factories (from Woolwich), 2nd Scots Guards and Swindon. The Scots Guards withdrew before the competition started and were replaced by Southampton St Mary's. A Second Division was added a couple of months later.
The Southern League Division 1 was of a very high standard, certainly the match of the Football League Division 2. Tottenham won the FA Cup as a Southern League club in 1901 and Southampton were finalists in 1900 and 1902. Between 1908 and 1912 the Charity Shield was competed for by the Football League and Southern League champions. The Southern League was however weakened by defections to the Football League, which slowly built a foothold in the south of the country. There were proposals to amalgamate the two leagues in 1907 and 1909, either as a Third Division or a regional Second Division, but these were rejected. There were also disputes, particularly over transfer fees, and at one time the Southern League placed a ban on its members applying to the Football League.
The First World War saw the London-based Football League and Southern League clubs competing against each other in the London Combination, which left the Southern League in an even weaker position. When merger with the Football League eventually came in 1920 it was in the nature of a takeover. The Southern League Division One was incorporated en masse into the Football League as Division Three. This in turn became Division Three South the following season when a corresponding Division Three North was formed. This left the Southern League with a rump of Welsh teams from the old Second Division, a handful of English teams, and the reserve elevens of its old members. It organised these into two regional sections (English and Welsh) with the top two teams playing off for the championship. When an economic depression decimated the Welsh section in 1923, the two sections were reorganised as East and West. For the later history of the Southern League see the list of champions.
The Southern League Division 1 tables for 1894 to 1920 can be accessed via the main season pages. The tables for other seasons up to 1927 when Reading Reserves competed are given on a separate page. There is also an all-time Division 1 table for 1894 to 1920, ranked by two points per win and goal average.
Summary of Results
Results by Opponent
|4||West Ham United3||30||15||6||9||49||34||+15||51|
|6||Queens Park Rangers||32||13||8||11||37||30||+7||47|
|13||Brighton & Hove A||24||10||6||8||37||30||+7||36|
|31||Royal Ordnance F||4||2||1||1||14||10||+4||7|
|42||Bradford Park Avenue||2||0||1||1||2||4||−2||1|
1 includes New Brompton
2 includes Southampton St Mary
3 includes Thames Ironworks
4 includes Millwall Athletic
5 includes Kettering
6 includes Stoke
7 includes Swansea Town
Summary of Seasons
Summary of Seasons (Reserves)