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Community-owned clubs on the pitch – 2021-22 review

On the whole it’s been a fantastic year on the pitch for our community-owned football clubs. Here, the FSA’s Richard Irving summarises the 2021-22 season for our clubs…

Starting with our most successful clubs this season, Bury AFC and Banbury United both stormed to the title in the North West Counties League Division One North and the Southern League Premier Central Division respectively. 

Bury AFC will now start next season in the North West Counties Premier Division and Banbury United will play in the National League South.

Exeter City are now the highest ranked community owned club with the Grecians earning second spot in League Two behind Forest Green Rovers on goal difference and consequently automatic promotion to League One.

They will, sadly however, be replaced in League Two by AFC Wimbledon who succumbed to relegation for the first time since becoming community-owned. 

Joining Bury AFC, Banbury United and Exeter City in being promoted were Scarborough Athletic who earned a place in the National League North following a play-off win over Warrington Town in front of a packed Flamingo Land Stadium. 

Elsewhere, Newport County enjoyed a good season before falling away from the play-off places in the latter stages in League Two, following five defeats in their last seven games. AFC Rushden & Diamonds missed out on the play-offs by the narrowest of margins, goal difference, whilst Darlington and Chester finished in solid mid-table places in the National League North.

In the National League South, Tonbridge Angels and Bath City also finished well clear of the relegation places to secure another season at Step 2.

In the Isthmian Premier Division, at Step 3, Enfield Town reached the play-offs before falling to defeat in the semi-final at home to Hornchurch, whilst Lewes missed out on a play-off spot following a defeat at Bognor Regis Town in their penultimate game of the season. 

Lewes’ season saw both their men’s and women’s teams record their highest attendances for decades when 2,347 witnessed their games against Worthing and Liverpool respectively. 

In the Southern Premier Division South, Hendon maintained their position in a really tough league where travelling long distances has become the norm.

At Step 4, in the North West Counties Division One West, Runcorn Linnets’ fine season came to an end with two goals conceded in the last twenty minutes of their play-off final at home to local rivals Marine in front of a crowd of 1,600 at the Millbank Linnets Stadium.

In the Isthmian South Central Division, Basingstoke Town fell one stage earlier, at the penultimate hurdle, denied promotion in a play-off semi-final defeat at Chertsey Town whilst their counterparts in the Isthmian North Division, Grays Athletic, narrowly missed out on the play-offs having spent much of the season in the play-off places. 

Our other Step 4 clubs, City of Liverpool and 1874 Northwich all finished their seasons in mid-table whilst Prescot Cables finished third from bottom in the same Northern Premier League West but avoided relegation due to their superior record to other Step 4 clubs.

At Step 5, there were mixed fortunes for our North West Counties Premier Division teams. AFC Liverpool, Congleton Town and Northwich Victoria achieved mid-table finishes but, sadly, Litherland REMYCA suffered relegation where they will join Wythenshawe Amateurs in the First Division South at Step 6. The Ammies reached the play-offs and despite a brave performance, after an early flight over, they fell to defeat at the hands of FC Isle of Man.

Down south at Step 5, an excellent season in the Essex Senior League saw Saffron Walden Town finish in second place but with only one place guaranteeing promotion Walthamstow, who finished nine points clear, took promotion this year. 

Peacehaven & Telscombe finished a solid eighth in the Southern Combination Premier Division, whilst Fisher finished thirteenth in the Southern Counties East Premier Division. 

One of our newest clubs, Dunstable Town, endured a dreadful start to the season but with a mid-season change of management fought their way up the Spartan South Midlands Premier League table to a very creditable ninth place.

Similarly, Worcester City also started slowly in the Midland Football League Premier Division but rallied to a very respectable fourth place finish with hopes for a title challenge next season. 

Our other clubs at Step 6 and below performed very well. In the Central Midlands Division One North, Newark Town topped the division thereby securing promotion to the United Counties League. Hinckley AFC lost in the play-off final in the United Counties League Division One to Belper Town, a fate shared by Newport (IOW) who lost at home in the play-off final of the Wessex League Division One to Laverstock and Ford. 

Montpelier Villa, in their first season in the Southern Combination Division One, finished ninth, Clapton CFC’s Men’s and Women’s first teams both finished third in their respective leagues but the biggest news came off the pitch when it was confirmed that the club will be returning to the Old Spotted Dog ground next season. 

Camden & Islington’s Men’s first team were another to finish in third place, in the Middlesex County League Division 1 Central/East.

In Wales, Ton Pentre unfortunately suffered relegation to the SWFA Alliance League whilst CPD Bangor 1876 finished in an excellent second place in the North Wales Coast League.

In the FA Cup, the Third Qualifying Round proved to be the end of several of our clubs’ runs this season with City of Liverpool losing heavily at home to Step 3 (and eventually promoted at a canter) Buxton, Chester losing a replay to Marske United, Runcorn Linnets losing at home to a club two levels above them, Gateshead and Enfield Town falling to Chelmsford City from a step above.

It was left to the all-conquering Banbury United to represent the community -owned clubs below Step 2 in the First Round proper where, following a defeat of fellow community-owned club Bath City they fell to defeat at home to Barrow of League Two following a fantastic draw at Holker Street. 

Newport County fell in the first round to Morecambe, Exeter City in the second at Cambridge United whilst AFC Wimbledon reached the third round only to be beaten by National League Borehamwood.

In the FA Trophy, Tonbridge Angels were the last surviving of our clubs, reaching the last 16 where they lost on penalties at home to National League local rivals Bromley who went on to win the Trophy against Wrexham at Wembley.

In the FA Vase, Saffron Walden Town and AFC Liverpool reached the last 16 of the tournament with Saffron Walden too suffering the heartbreak of a penalty shoot-out defeat at home to Loughborough Students in front of a crowd of 760 whilst AFC Liverpool succumbed to Abbey Hey, also on penalties.

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Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund


  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Pledgeball