ONE of Essex’s longest standing football competitions is expecting a huge increase in clubs next season, writes RON FOSKER.

The Essex and Suffolk Border League, which has been in existence for 109 years, has had more than 30 approaches from prospective new teams for next season.

The league currently has 62 teams in four divisions and hopes to stretch to a fifth division, next season.

Alison Stanford, the league’s secretary, said: “The league is delighted that there has been such a good interest from local football teams in what has been a strange year for football.

“There is still a passion for the beautiful game at player, manager and officer level as well as the league's committee and officers.

“We are pleased that we can support and facilitate so many players. Last season almost 2,500 individual players registered for the league.”

Asked why she thought there was so much interest in the league, Ms Stanford replied: “I believe we are a well-run league well respected by Essex County FA, our teams and other leagues.

"I think we are also recognised as playing a good standard of football and affording clubs the opportunity to move through the football system.

“In recent years for instance we have seen clubs such as Coggeshall Town (now in the Isthmian League), Haverhill Borough, Brightlingsea, Harwich, Holland and Little Oakley gain promotion into the Thurlow Nunn leagues and above. “

Ms Stanford added that she thought the number of teams interested would probably fall away before the start of next season but anticipated that around two-thirds of the approaches would turn into applications.

“They are coming from a variety of sources. There are a couple of teams being formed following youth football - ie under-18 teams who want to stay together, a number of teams from other leagues and a number of new clubs. Sometimes these are spin offs from existing clubs and sometimes completely new.

“There is also at least one new club who are currently playing in a Sunday league who want to get involved on a Saturday instead. There are also a number of reserve and A teams who already have a team in our league who are expanding.”

She added: “We are lucky as well to be supported by local referees who officiate in all weathers throughout the season.

“As we have an additional division to run next season we will be looking for new or returning referees to officiate games. If anyone is interested they can contact me at and I will pass their details to our referees secretary.

“We are aware that people out there are struggling financially which of course creates a knock-on effect for clubs. We have been able to reduce our subscriptions for the forthcoming season but the league itself lost its sponsor a couple of years ago.

“We would be very interested to hear from anyone who may be able to consider sponsoring the league.”

Despite its name, the Border League is located almost entirely in Essex, with only five of its 44 clubs just over the border in Suffolk.

It takes clubs within a 40-mile radius of Colchester and stretches as far as Barnston and Stebbing to the west, Little Oakley and Clacton to the east, Tollesbury and Hatfield Peverel to the south and the Suffolk clubs like Cavendish and Sudbury Sports to the north.