The Combined Counties Football League traces its history back to 1921 when the Surrey Senior League was formed on 16th May 1922. The founding members were Aldershot Institute Albion, Camberley & Yorktown, Carshalton Athletic, Dorking, Egham, Farnham United Breweries, Hersham, Leyland Motors, Merton Town, RAE (Farnborough) and Walton on Thames. The following season the league were bolster by the arrival of Brighton Railway, Godalming, Guildford & Weybridge. The league continued to operate, with a break for the war, until the late 1970’s. Epsom & Ewell were champions in 1974 -75 when they reached the inaugural FA Vase Final at Wembley Stadium.
In 1978, when the clubs and officers of the Surrey County Senior League decided to end a thirty-year alignment with the Surrey County Football Association following continual losses of clubs to other leagues and a general lack of new senior clubs coming through from the County Intermediate Leagues. The officers managed to obtain some sponsorship; a condition of which was the formation of a new league to enlarge the catchment area and scope in an attempt to seek direct affiliation with the Football Association. And so the Home Counties Football League was born.
The League was formally renamed Home Counties League on 18th June 1978 as its geographical area spread further afield. As the new League was, geographically, insufficiently large enough to comply with Football Association regulations, the League was required to affiliate to the Surrey County Football Association. After a few months, an objection to the name was raised by the London Football Association through an autonomous body called the Home Counties Conference. This body instructed the Surrey County Football Association to refuse sanction to the League under it’s present nomenclature in future seasons.
In anticipation, the League decided to revert to a similarity of the former title of the old defunct league – Surrey Senior Football League – after a change of heart by some of the more County-aligned members. Though, initially, verbally agreed by the Surrey County Football Association, the name was officially rejected on the grounds that the Surrey County Football Association intended to reform the Surrey County Senior League in a new form at some time in the future. This rejection came only ten days before the Home Counties Football League Annual General Meeting. The reformed Surrey County Senior League was started again in the 1982-1983 season.
Within this ten day period, the Surrey County Football Association suggested the name of the Corinthian Football League, but this was frowned upon by the Athenian Football League within which the old Corinthian Football League was incorporated. The alternative suggestion which found general approval was the Combined Counties Football League, and this was finally adopted.
The Combined Counties League was formally adopted as the title of the league for the start of the 1979-1980 season.
Since 1978, the annual, and increasing, loss of clubs to other Leagues was finally arrested, much to the relief of the officers. From the initial nine founder-member clubs, the Premier Division grew in the first year to eleven with Hartley Wintney and Yateley. The following season brought Godalming & Farncombe United, now Godalming Town, and for a time Godalming & Guildford, from the Surrey County Intermediate Football League (Western Division) and, possibly more importantly, Virginia Water from the London-Spartan Football League, to help provide a stronger competition. The return of Virginia Water and the decision of Chessington United not to purse an application for membership of the London-Spartan Football League after having been accepted, alleviated some of the wear and tear on the League’s officers, who had been battling for the League’s survival. The Chessington United decision was followed by two more enquiries, both from outside Surrey, from clubs considering applying for the following season.
Higher Petrol costs and, therefore, dearer travel, persuaded more clubs to follow the lead of Virginia Water, to compete in a more regionalised League. 1980-1981 brought Cranleigh, Farnham Town, Lingfield and Wrecclesham with Alton Town, Chobham, Cove and Frimley Green joining the following season. Only two Clubs had departed in this time; Lions Sports, whose senior teams folded due to company policy, and Lingfield who were somewhat isolated geographically. By 1983, membership of the League stabilised with between sixteen and eighteen clubs, and ideally, each club was to eventually reach the playing strength and facilities required to compete in the Football Association Challenge Vase competition.
From the commencement of the 1984-1985 season, the League, together with three other senior Leagues in the Home Counties, formed the lower rung of the Isthmian Pyramid system of football under the Isthmian Football League. Further, the formation of the Surrey County Premier League led to the completion of the Surrey County Football Association pyramid extending down to the most junior of park clubs. Under this pyramid, any club affiliated to the Surrey County Football Association could then progress through their various Leagues to the Combined Counties Football League, subject to certain requirements relating to facilities and the granting of senior status by the County Football Association, under a promotion/relegation agreement between the Surrey County Premier League and this League. This agreement did not apply to clubs affiliated to other County Football Associations, who could apply for membership in the usual manner. The decision to join the pyramid, in effect, strengthened the League enabling it to become a force in senior non-league football and develop to a level equal to that of other Leagues of similar status.
In 1985, the League became the first feeder League in the Isthmian pyramid to provide a club with suitable facilities, Southwick, acceptable for promotion to the Isthmian Football League, Division Two (South). The following season Chertsey Town were similarly promoted having finished as runners-up in the Premier Division.
1987 saw a further change in the name of the League. An agreement was reached with Dan-Air Scheduled Services Limited to provide sponsorship in the form of a five figure sum over a four year period, with annual options. Part of that agreement changed the League title to the ‘Dan-Air Football League’ and introduced a League representative team. The sponsorship of the League by Dan-Air Scheduled Services Limited was most appropriate since the company were originally based as Blackbushe Airport, Yateley, which is in the catchment area of the League. Dan-Air were then based at Gatwick and operated out of that airport as well as Heathrow; both airports being on the extremities of the League’s area.
The summer of 1988 saw another of the League’s objectives achieved when the arrival of Steyning Town from Sussex meant that the League were required to formally affiliate direct to the Football Association.
Dan-Air Scheduled Services Limited increased their sponsorship in 1989 with the introduction of the Dan-Air Class Elite Cup which advertised the company’s business executive class on the airline.
The position of the League in the national pyramid was strengthened in 1990 when the admittance of Sandhurst Town extended the area of the League into a fifth county, Berkshire, and the Annual General Meeting agreed the introduction of yet another competition, the Youth Cup, for member clubs. Another club gained promotion into the Isthmian League when Cove moved up at the end of the season.
During 1990 the Isthmian Pyramid was expanded to include a level of Lower Feeder Leagues which included the Surrey County Premier League, now known as the Surrey County Senior League. This enlarged the area from which Clubs could be promoted into the League and promotion & relegation issues at both ends of the League will now be decided by the Isthmian Joint Liaison Committee.
The 1991-92 season, saw the League expand once more with new arrivals Viking Sports, from the Hellenic League and Ditton promoted from the Surrey Premier League. The League also introduced a new competition for the third season running, the Dan-Air Youth League, open to youth teams from member clubs. However, the Youth League failed to achieve it’s aims only attracting seven teams in it’s first season. With few of the other teams showing interest in entering, the League reluctantly abandoned the competition at the end of the season.
Farnham Town attaining promotion in 1991-92 to the Isthmian League, however, they failed to attain the facilities required and were back in the League in 1993-94.
The 1992-93 season saw the League with a new name with the end of the sponsorship from Dan-Air and a new three year deal. Parasol Professional Portrait Photography Ltd of Cobham agreed a sponsorship deal resulting in a new title for the League; the “Parasol Combined Counties Football League”.
The League Challenge Cup also returned to sponsorship for the 1992-93 season with the name Parasol Challenge Cup. A replacement for the popular Dan-Air Class Elite Cup was also obtained which became the Frazer Freight Vase which was sponsored by Frazer Freight International Ltd.
Two new clubs also joined the League for the 1992-93 season with Peppard being the first to be promoted from the Chiltonian League and DCA Basingstoke crossing the pyramid from the Hampshire League. With the arrival of Peppard, who are an Oxfordshire Club, the League now extended its influence into six counties for the first time.
Peppard were to prove a formidable side on the field winning both the Premier & Reserve Divisions in 1992-93 & 1993-94 but they failed to obtain the facilities necessary to progress into the Isthmian League. The 1992-93 season saw the demise of Malden Town, a long time member of the league, when they lost their ground and were forced to out of existence.
The 1993-94 season also saw Chipstead withdraw their reserves and move them to the Suburban League, the first club to do so. Frimley Green were also relegated to the Surrey Premier League and replaced by Netherne.
In the 1994-95 season Ashford Town (Middx) claimed the first of their record breaking run of League titles. This was to be repeated the following year, a season that saw Malden Vale return to the CCFL from the Isthmian League as Raynes Park Vale along with Feltham. Ashford Town (Middx)’s run of league titles was to continue until they were promoted into the Isthmian League at the end of 1999-2000. The run only interspersed by the 1998-99 championship claimed by Ash United.
In 1997-98 the league received sponsorship from another source and became the Courage Combined Counties Football League.
In the following seasons Cove, AFC Wallingford & Withdean 2000 won the championship but all failed to gain promotion due to standard of facilities. Withdean 2000 were most unlucky as their home ground, Withdean Stadium, has been used by Brighton & Hove in the Football League Championship & League One. The 2002-2003 season saw CCFL matches played for the first time on a ground with a seating capacity of 7000.
In 2002, the league reached a membership of 24 clubs in the premier division with the arrival of North Greenford United, from the Middlesex County League, and AFC Wimbledon.
The AFC Wimbledon experience was something special for most of the clubs in the league. With crowds of up to 4000 spectators at AFC Wimbledon’s matches. It also saw the first matches with large numbers of police drafted in to control crowds, including mounted police and helicopters patrolling the sky over grounds.
AFC Wimbledon spent two seasons with the league before being promoted as champions and winning the league cup. The Premier Cup Final at Woking FC for the match between AFC Wimbledon & North Greenford United saw the largest crowd to fill Kingfield Stadium.
In 2002-03 also marked the start of a three year sponsorship arrangement with Seagrave Haulage. Unfortunately, this was to fail after one season when Seagrave pulled out of the deal.
Following the National League System Conference in July 2002. The CCFL and the Surrey Senior League entered into discussions. This resulted in the merger of the two leagues for season 2003-2004 forming a league of 40 clubs filling the steps 5 and 6 in line with FA wishes.
After a first successful season in operation the CCFL Division One champions AFC Guildford were promoted into the Premier Division.
In 2005, Premier Division Champions Walton Casuals were been promoted to the newly restructured step 4 leagues, whilst AFC Wallingford & Hartley Wintney were relegated to Division One and Bedfont Green promoted to the Premier Division. Hanworth Villa from the Middlesex County League and Tongham from the Surrey Intermediate League were promoted into Division One to replace the relegated Cranleigh & Hersham RBL.
A new sponsorship was also in place for 2005-06 following an agreement with Cherry Red Records. The league became the Cherry Red Combined Counties Football League.
At the end of 2005-06, six clubs were moved from the Isthmian League Division Two to the Combined Counties League. This was part of the FA restructuring of the National League System where a fifth division at Step 4 was created and Isthmian Division Two was scrapped. These clubs were Camberley Town, Chertsey Town, Dorking, Egham Town, Epsom & Ewell & Wembley. Most of these clubs were former members of the league when it had been the Surrey Senior League. These clubs were joined by Banstead Athletic who took the relegation spot in Isthmian Division One being replaced by Godalming Town who were promoted as champions of the Premier Division. With Bookham being promoted to the Premier Division and AFC Wallingford taking their promotion as a move into the Hellenic League, five clubs were moved to Division One mainly for failing to meet the facility requirements. These being Farnham Town, Feltham, Frimley Green, Horley Town & Westfield. The league achieved its largest membership by also accepting CB Hounslow United from the Middlesex League and South Park from the Crawley & District League. During this season Southall, who had run into financial difficulties, were removed from the competition.
2006-2007 saw another club promoted to step 4. Chipstead who had led the Premier Division for most of the season. Horley Town, having upgraded their facilities were able to make a return to the Premier Division and Knaphill, from the Surrey Intermediate League, and Neasden Foundation, from the Middlesex County League were admitted to Division One.
2007-2008 saw Merstham promoted to step 4 whilst Molesey dropped to take their place. Merstham were run away leaders of the Premier Division for most of the season they also won the Premier Challenge Cup and were the first Combined Counties League winners of the Surrey Senior Cup. Reaching the last 8 of the FA Vase also capped a memorable season for Merstham. Reading Town moved to the Hellenic League in a swap with Badsot Lea. Hartley Wintney, finishing in third place were propmted to the Premier Division replacing Dorking, who survived possible eviction from their ground, and Mole Valley SCR, from the Middlesex County League were admitted to Division One. Neasden Foundation after a single season were removed from the competition having failed to complete their league programme whilst Tongham & Merrow resigned from Division One.
In 2008-2009, having moved into a ground share with Windsor & Eton, Bedfont Green claimed the league title and were promoted to the Southern League. North Greenford United finished runners-up but were some 17 points adrift. Camberley Town were the Premier Challenge cup winners beating Worcester Park, the first Division One side to make it to the final after Chertsey Town were removed from the competition playing an ineligible player in the Semi-Final. The final was held at Carshalton Athletic after a last minute move away from Woking who had double booked the facilities. Staines Lammas won Division One but were unable to take their promotion due to their facilities. Second & third placed teams Hanworth Villa & Dorking were promoted to the Premier Division. Hartley Wintney & Cobham were relegated in turn. Croydon also transferred from the Kent league where they had been placed upon the demise of the Isthmian League Division Two.
Having finished runners-up in the previous season, North Greenford United went one better and won the Premier Division title. Chertsey Town finished second only six points behind. North Greenford United were promoted into Isthmian League Division One North. The 2009-2010 Premier Cup winners were Cove who beat Bedfont in extra-time in the final held at Staines Town. Mole Valley SCR won Division One and were promoted to the Premier Division. Farnborough North End transferred from the Wessex League into Division One and Hayes Gate promoted from the Middlesex County League.
Guildford City finished as Premier Division champions in 2010-11, having led the table for most of the season. Chertsey Town were again runner-up. Guildford City failed the inspection on their Spectrum facilities and were denied promotion. Instead, Chertsey Town were promoted to the Southern League. Chertsey Town have now been promoted twice from the Combined Counties League but have never finished as League Champions. The Premier Cup was won by Sandhurst Town beating Wembley 1-0. It was held at Farnborough FCs ground which had not been the Cup Final venue for some years. Worcester Park after several seasons finishing in the top three were Division One Champions but were unable to take promotion. However, second & third placed teams Farnham Town & South Park were able to do so. Bookham were relegated to Division One. Windsor, newly formed after Windsor & Eton had folded, were placed in the Premier Division by the FA and South Kilburn transferred to Division One from the Hellenic League. New entries into division one included Spelthorne Sports promoted from the Surrey Elite Intermediate League and new club Guernsey FC.
With promotion and relegation at both ends of the competition, the League is now well established as a senior route into higher football for clubs in a region covering Berkshire, Hampshire, London, Middlesex & Surrey and now Guernsey.