Compiled by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14] – Non-League & EOFL Writer
Hello everyone and to welcome to the first article looking at Season 2021-22 campaign of the Essex Olympian League divisions. In this piece we’ll have a look at the Constitutions for all six Essex Olympian League (EOFL) divisions (the Premier Division sits at Step 7 & is a ‘NLS Feeder League’). These listings could still be subject to alteration in due course, but is compiled from known information as the EOFL elected to release it in early June this year. The EOFL began in 1966 and marks 55 years this coming season. Thanks to them for the info used, you can find out more on their website – eofl.co.uk
Finally, if there is any info that is inaccurate, could I ask clubs to DM me on Twitter and I will amend, thank you. Every effort has been made to keep it up to date.
EOFL Premier Division
The landscape of the EOFL top-tier will look quite difficult come August, after Buckhurst Hill’s elevation to the Step 6 Eastern Senior League South (aka Thurlow Nunn League Division One South) . The first exciting thing to mention is that the Division has been expanded to 15 teams from last season’s fourteen sides.
The EOFL committee have been pro-active in promoting clubs over the summer. We knew that last season’s Division One Champions Ongar Town would face the stern test of the Olympian League top tier, along with runners-up Galleywood.
The three new sides face a torrent of experienced sides, with Marcus Bowers’ Basildon Town determined to go one better this time around than the second spot they got last term. Assistant Jack Main has departed after expressing a firm wish to get back to playing, and former Rayleigh Town Reserves co-boss Lee Bunn comes in to assist Bowers, who takes his current side back to familiar surroundings in Basildon Utd’s Gardiners Close ground where they will ground-share from August.
Catholic Utd, Bishop’s Stortford Swifts, Sungate and Leigh Ramblers will all look to build on good ends to the campaign just gone to compete again in the top=half at least this coming campaign.
Hutton, Rayleigh Town and Harold Wood Athletic garnered mid-table finishes last term and the latter may be in a state of transition after manager Alex Goldstone’s departure in May. Springfield will be looking for a better campaign as boss Dan Williams will be hoping for a better start this time around. The bottom four sides from last season in Canning Town, Kelvedon Hatch, Shenfield AFC and Old Southendian will also be hoping for better seasons given the likelihood of relegation returning in May 2022* (*= Hoping of course we get a full/near full season in this time around, that is).
EOFL Divisions Senior One & Two
Senior One has also had changes made, with the three sides getting promoted to the Premier, plus the voluntary relegation of last term’s bottom side Shoebury Town, who have elected to rebuild in Division Two.
Promotion-wise, we knew Division Two champions Leigh Town would finally get the opportunity to compete in the second-tier in August, along with second-placed Beacon Hill Rovers, who have had an excellent season under player-boss Stephen Bennett. Once again though, the elevation for clubs does not end there. There are two more sides getting brought up a level, with third-placed Epping Town and Wakering Sports (who finished fourth) getting the nod. For Epping, it is a great achievement given the change they had to make ground-wise last summer and the form Stuart Hoskins’ team has shown in the latter stages of last term. Also, for local interest in South Essex, it’s great to see ambitious ‘Sports get a chance to compete in the second-tier. Best wishes to both clubs.
The new entrants to the division also include Div Two side Corinthians who were asked to go up by the League following the resignation of Ramsden Scotia recently and Rayleigh Town Reserves going down to Div Two. They will face tough opposition which is led by Runwell Sports, who announced former Hullbridge Sports legend Rob Hodgson as their new boss last week. The likes of Snaresbrook, Toby and Old Chelmsfordians will again look to concrete their positions in the top half of what could be a very open division come the end of this upcoming season.
Change is also afoot at Chingford Athletic and Herongate Athletic. Firstly, Declan Murphy was announced as the man to lead Chingford’s new era by Chairman Lee Bowers last week and Murphy wasted no time in signing up his top-scorer at Ryan in forward Scout Bown. Herongate also are in the midst of change as Elliot Thompson departs for pastures new, but former Bishop’s Stortford Swifts gaffer Billy Cove comes in to replace him, along with his highly-regarded management team. It could be quite the campaign for Herongate on the horizon.
So Division One looks fascinating, and the sweeping changes continue in Division Two. I’ll start the rundown of changes on a sombre note as two clubs have resigned from the EOFL. Laindon Orient announced that after twelve super years, the club would fold back at the end of May. However, we also now know that Walthamstow-based Ryan have also stepped down from the League, which is sad to see. Having seen them at the end of last season, I wish all who played & were involved in the set-up well for the future.
On a happier note, last season’s Division Three champions ACD Utd reach the highest level they have played at as a club, and player-boss Michael Wade will look for another good season I believe. Runners-up Manford Way Reserves also get a chance to pit their wits against a number of good teams in this division. But as with Division One, there are two additional promoted sides. Hutton Ressies played a number of matches towards season’s end in Div Three last term and their form has been rewarded so Bill Stratford’s side will test themselves against a number of local sides here. Wakebury have also got the green-light and Matt Cardy’s side will be very happy to have the chance to play in the third-tier come August.
As mentioned earlier, Shoebury Town will enter this division as well as they hope for a good, solid campaign. There is also a new side entering the mix as Mid-Essex League Premier champions Harold Hill return to the EOFL after three years away, they will enter in Division Two also. It’s good to see them back.
The likes of Old Southendian Reserves and Harold Wood Athletic Reserves will be looking for better than mid-table finishes that they achieved last term. The same has to be said of Rochford Town, May & Baker A and AS Rawreth who finished in the bottom three last term, despite some spirited performances.
Listing for EOFL Constitution – Premier to Division Two (below)
(NEW) = New Side for 2020/21 Season
P = Promoted
* Taken Voluntary Relegation (one division lower)
** Since this table was published, Manford Way 1st Team has resigned, making the Reserves their first team for the coming season. Also in Div One, Ramsden Scotia have sadly resigned, with Rayleigh Town Reserves dropping to Div Two. Corinthians move up to Div One also.
EOFL Division Three
Moving into Division Three now, which is made up of twelve sides like last season. Replacing the four teams that have gone up to Division Two, there are three sides that have come up in Div Four champions Catholic Utd Res, runners-up Hashtag Utd Development (formerly Forest Glade) and Wakering Sports Reserves also got the bonus promotion having finished in third in Div Four last season. There is one other new side in Pitsea Athletic, who have come across from the Mid-Essex League Premier Division after finishing fourth there last season.
The likes of Basildon Town Reserves, Hullbridge Sports A and Collier Row will be looking to improve on their mid-table finishes last term with Row in particular looking to forget their poor run in the last month of the campaign. The other sides that will compete again in Div Three are Lakeside Utd, Buckhurst Hill Reserves, Corinthians Ressies, Toby Reserves and last term’s bottom side Leigh Town Reserves who will be under new management as well.
EOFL Divisions Four & Five
Finally for this article, there are a number of alterations in Divisions Four & Five. In Div Four, Wakering Sports’ A side winning the Division Five title last term means that all three Sports sides have been elevated, a rare achievement indeed. They are joined by runners-up Springfield Reserves and Roydon, who get the nod after finishing third in Div Five, having taken voluntary relegation twelve months ago it is nice to see them back in Div Four now.
They are also joined by a new team being entered by Essex Senior (Step 5) side Southend Manor, who interestingly field a Reserve side in this division of the EOFL. The rest of the division is mostly like last term, which includes the respective Reserve sides of Canning Town, Chingford Athletic, Galleywood, Old Chelmsfordians, Ongar Town, Shenfield AFC and Sungate.
The only other change is with Laindon Orient folding, the Reserve side also doesn’t take its place in this division. Their last game ended up being a win at Wakering Sports Reserves so not a bad match to end with I suppose.
Now in Division Five, there are nine teams that remain in the division and they are the Reserve sides representing AS Rawreth, Bishop’s Stortford Swifts, Collier Row, Epping Town, Herongate Athletic, Leigh Ramblers & Runwell Sports along with Old Barkabbeyans who despite 20+ league goals from Michael Ryder only managed a mid-table finish last term.
There is also the fact that Shoebury Town Reserves have folded, as the club elect to focus on the first team in Div Two. On a positive note though, there are three new sides, with Snaresbrook putting in a Reserve side to support the First team who reside in Division One. Pitsea Athletic also bring their reserve side straight into the EOFL here and Wakebury have entered a new Reserve side in Division Five with Berries stalwart Brett Deeming in charge as plyer-boss, with their side in the Southend Borough Combination becoming their ‘A’ side. Thanks to club Chairman & 1st team Manager Matt Cardy for that amendment.
I’d like to wish all the New sides well irrespective of what division they are in.
EOFL Divisions Three – Five Constitution (below)
That concludes this in-depth look at the EOFL Leagues for Season 2021-22, thank you for reading and I hope you’ll agree that there are some exciting divisions in prospect.
The next articles coming on the blog are our ‘In-Focus’ series where we speak to clubs representatives, Writers & a League rep about their respective futures. This series marks five years as a Non-League writer for me, first up will be the Essex Alliance League looking to their future as a Regional NLS Feeder League come August 2021.