Minor Leagues

Western League

The Western League had its origins in the Bristol and District League, founded in 1892 (two years before the Southern League) by teams in and around Bristol. The league was dominated in its early years by Warmley who were champions four times in the first five seasons, including the first two seasons after it became the Western League in 1895. Reading, together with Swindon, first joined the league in the newly formed Professional Section in 1897. However they played for only one season before transferring to the United League and then to the Southern District Combination. By 1899, the Western League Division 1 had dwindled to just four clubs – Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Swindon Town and Bedminster – a number that dropped still further when Bedminster merged with Bristol City.

In 1900 there was a major influx of Southern League teams, including Reading, into the Western League from the Southern District Combination. In effect it became a subsidiary tournament for Southern League teams, the fixtures generally being played mid-week. According to league rules, teams were meant to put out a full-strength team. However often weaker elevens or reserve teams were fielded, putting the clubs into conflict with the league. Growing fixture commitments caused the league to be divided into two sections in 1906, the two winners contesting a play-off to decide the league champions. This continued until 1909 when the first division was disbanded, leaving just the second division, containing some genuine West Country (and Welsh) teams, to continue.

Champions Runners-up
1892-931 Warmley Trowbridge Town
1893-941 Warmley St George
1894-951 Hereford Thistle St George
1895-96 Warmley Eastville Rovers
1896-97 Warmley Bristol South East
1897-98 Bristol City2 Swindon Town
1898-99 Swindon Town Bristol St George3
1899-00 Bristol Rovers4 Bedminster5
1900-01 Portsmouth Millwall Athletic
1901-02 Portsmouth Tottenham Hotspur
1902-03 Portsmouth Bristol Rovers
1903-04 Tottenham Hotspur Southampton
1904-05 Plymouth Argyle Brentford
1905-06 Queens Park Rangers Southampton
1906-07 West Ham United6 Fulham
1907-08 Millwall7 Southampton
1908-09 Millwall8 Brighton & HA
1909-10 Treharris Bristol City Res
1910-11 Bristol City Res Bristol Rovers Res
1911-12 Welton Rovers Barry District
1912-13 Bristol Rovers Res Cardiff City Res
1913-14 Cardiff City Res Bath City
1 Bristol & District League
2 Bristol City previously known as Bristol South East
3 Bristol St George previously known as St George
4 Bristol Rovers previously known as Eastville Rovers
5 Bedminster merged with Bristol City
6 West Ham beat Fulham 1-0 in play-off
7 Millwall beat Southampton 1-0 in play-off
8 Millwall beat Brighton 2-1 in play-off

United League

The United League was founded in 1896 to provide additional mid-week fixtures for teams drawn from a number of leagues. The founder members were Arsenal and Loughborough from the Football League, Luton, Millwall and Tottenham from the Southern League, and Kettering, Rushden and Wellingborough from the Midland League. Reading joined the League for its third season, 1898-99, finishing in sixth place. They then joined a general exodus of the Southern teams to the Southern District Combination, leaving the United League with a rump of Midlands teams. A number of new teams were recruited, including the recently formed Northampton Town, and the less notable Desborough Unity and Finedon Revellers. The League struggled on in this form for three seasons, before being suspended in 1902.

The League was re-formed in 1905 solely as a secondary competition for Southern League teams, although membership soon dwindled. A Northern Section was formed in 1908, with the Southern champions, New Brompton (later to become Gillingham), beating the Northern champions, Rotherham Town (later to merge with Rotherham County to form Rotherham United), 4-1 in a play-off. However, this was the final curtain and the League folded.

Champions Runners-up
1896-97 Millwall Athletic Luton Town
1897-98 Luton Town Tottenham Hotspur
1898-99 Millwall Athletic Southampton
1899-00 Wellingborough Kettering
1900-01 Rothwell Town Swifts Luton Town
1901-02 Irthlingborough Town Rothwell Town Swifts
1902-05 no competition
1905-06 Watford Crystal Palace
1906-07 Crystal Palace Brighton & Hove A
1907-08 Brentford Southend United
1908-09 New Brompton1 Rotherham Town
1 New Brompton beat Rotherham 4-1 in play-off

Southern District Combination

The Southern District Combination was founded in 1899 to provide additional mid-week fixtures for teams in the south of the country as an alternative to the United League. It lasted only one season, the champions being Millwall, before a mass exodus to the Western League.

Champions Runners-up
1899-00 Millwall Athletic Tottenham Hotspur