Fan-owned Saffon Walden Town FC – who have an average attendance of 199 – are looking to join the Essex Senior League
The Essex Senior League next season will see the exit of Barking to promotion and the return of Great Wakering Rovers after relegation.
However, Great Wakering, who spent two seasons in the Ryman North. might not be the only new club returning to the ESL…
Saffron Walden Town
Saffron Walden Town of the Eastern Counties League have announced they have applied for a sideways transfer to the ESL.
The Bloods were members of the ESL until 2002/3 and indeed won the title in 1999/2000 but were prevented from being promoted due to ground issues.
Based around 10 miles from Stansted and Takeley, if Saffron Walden are accepted it would nudge the boundary of the Essex Senior League further north.
However, the club face journeys up to 90 miles in their current league, so are on the fringes of whichever league they are placed in.
Excitingly for Tons fans, Saffron Walden have a big fanbase, topping the attendance table in the ECL with an average of 199, even despite a mid table season.
Not only that, but they are owned by supporters, after the club went to the wall five years ago only to be saved by fans with help from Supporters Direct among others.
Woodford Town could also be returning to the Essex Senior League after a 15-year absence since their sad demise.
Historic Town, where Jimmy Greaves once played. were evicted from their Snakes Lane ground in 1993 because of complaints about noise from local residents. A fire later destroyed the main building in 1996.
They continued until 2003, groundsharing in Greenwich and then at Clapton’s Old Spotted Dog ground, before the league decided not to re-elect them.
Incidentally current Clapton chief executive Vince McBean was the Woodford chairman through some of its turbulent final years.
A resurrected Town played one season in the Spartan South Midlands League in 2015/6, based at Brimsdown Road (formerly used by Enfield Town and Enfield FC) and then later ground-sharing with Ware, before withdrawing.
It’s understood a new Woodford Town, with a committee of seven, have applied to the Essex Senior League and would play at Brimsdown Road.
Brentwood Town are currently one place above the Ryman North relegation zone, two points ahead of Ware with 3 games to play.
However, if Brentwood were to drop into the bottom three, they would also return to the Essex Senior League along with Great Wakering.
Brentwood were last in the ESL ten years ago and were actually in the Ryman Premier last season.
There is also an outside chance that Waltham Abbey could drop into the relegation zone if Brentwood, Ware and others end the season very well.
This is looking quieter. Sources have suggested that no club will be relegated out of the ESL.
However, could league officials be forced into a rethink given Barking are the only departure and there are four potential entrants to the league?
Or does it suggest one – or more – of the applicants will be turned down?
Could a current ESL club be voted out of the league? Indeed, hold a current ESL club look to transfer out to a different league themselves?
We will find out all the ins and outs later this month.
Next season’s shake-up
A major shake-up of the non-league pyramid will kick in from 2018/9.
The ESL will have between 16 and 20 clubs – and will have a second division too.
There will be extra leagues above Clapton’s level, meaning that there may well be more than one promotion place up for grabs.
We’ll write in more detail about this shake-up as details emerge.