Division III promotion, London in Division IV - The Snow In The Summer or So-So

31 May 2018
Football writings

Two football questions from Jack of the Online Writings:

If Rotherham win the play-off final, would that be the first time all three teams relegated from [Division II] have gone straight back up?

Rotherham did win the play-off final. To research this question, we've used this compact listing up to 2014, and RSSSF tables since.

"Yes" is the simple answer. Even when it was two-up, two-down, even when it was two-down, one-up-from-three-north, one-up-from-three-south, there's never been a time when all of the clubs relegated from Division II bounced back from Division III.

The trick was almost pulled in Division IV a decade ago. The sides relegated from Division III in 2006 (Hartlepool, Franchise, Swindon, Walsall) filled the top four in 2007's Division IV, but Franchise lost in the play-offs.

Am I right in thinking there will be no London teams in [Division IV] next season?

By "London" club, we're using "any club with a ground in the London Authority area" (Greater London Council 1965-86, London boroughs 1986-2000). This includes Barnet; their old Underhill ground might have had a Hertfordshire postcode, but was squarely in Enfield. We include Wimbledon as a London club until the 2001-2 season, but not their subsequent existence as Franchise FC.

And we're only researching back to the formation of the GLC in 1965; before that, "London" was a bit more nebulous. (Leyton Orient, for instance, rightly defined themselves as an Essex club.) Other definitions of "London club" might appeal: "anywhere within the M25" would include Boreham Wood and Watford, "anywhere regarded as a London club by the Evening Standard" could bring in Gravesend and Northfleet, Luton, and Dartford. None of these materially alter our analysis.

For the 2018-19 season, Barnet drop out from Division IV, and no London club replaces them. Sutton United failed in the play-offs, Bromley missed the play-offs.

In the last quarter-century, Barnet (most seasons from 1991), Dagenham and Redbridge (from 2007), and Leyton Orient (pretty much every season) have ensured London representation in Division IV.

Last time London didn't have a rep in Division IV was the 1993-4 season. Barnet spent their one year up in Division III, where they finished bottom. Fulham came down with them. Leyton Orient were a comfortable 18th in Division III, Dagenham & Redbridge finished 6th in the Football Conference (Non-League Division V).

In 1990-91, London sides flanked Division IV - Barnet won the Division V title and secured promotion, Fulham finished 21st in Division III - a non-relegation spot that year. Similarly in 1989-90, there was a gap between Fulham (20th in Division III) and Barnet (2nd in Division V).

Leyton Orient secured promotion through the 1989 play-offs, having been relegated in 1985. The 1984-5 Division IV was bereft of London interest, between Orient (Division III, 22nd) and Wealdstone (Division V, 1st); Wealdstone did not stand for election to the Football League. One season earlier, 1983-4 saw a London gap from Brentford (Division III, 20th) and Wealdstone (Division V, 5th).

Wimbledon yo-yoed between Divisions III and IV, leaving IV clear of London sides in 1981-2 - the gap went from Wimbledon (Division III, 21st) to Enfield (Division V, 2nd). 1979-80 was also non-London, between Wimbledon (Division III, 24th), and Wealdstone (Alliance Premier, 15th).

Brentford spent most of the 1960s and '70s pottering around in Division IV, but were briefly in Division III. That left the 1972-3 Division IV bereft of London interest - Brentford were 22nd in Division III, Wimbledon of the Southern League failed to attract votes for election.

Prior to Brentford's relegation, 1965-6 and 1966-7 were also London-free in Division IV. In 1966-7, Brentford were 23rd in Division III. In 1965-6, QPR were the bottom London side (14th in Division III), Wimbledon applied in both seasons without any success.

This will be the eleventh season in 53 years without a London side in Division IV. Arsenal have been a permanent presence in (Non-)League Division I, and there's always been some London in Division II. Division III ran without a London side in 1972-3, and again in 1978-9; assuming we discount Watford, there was no London rep in 1979-80. There was no London side in Division V as recently as 2012-13, nor in 2008-9.

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