The Year 1966 was a great one for football. England won the World Cup and closer to home the Chippenham & District Sunday Football League was founded by a group of dedicated people who wanted to provide the people of North Wiltshire and the surrounding area with the chance to play competitive football on a Sunday Morning.
The idea to form the Chippenham & District Sunday Football League came as a result of a number of teams playing ‘Friendlies’ at Sutton Benger against a Buxted Team on Sunday mornings. The people playing these games were mostly lads who worked on a Saturday, which was a common occurrence in 1965.
It was one day at the local Pub and after one of those Sunday morning matches that it was agreed to call a meeting in ‘The Railway Inn’, Chippenham, (no longer in existence) with a view to forming a League of Sunday teams.
An enthusiastic group formed the first Committee and held a couple of meetings with the newly formed Swindon Sunday Football League, and a set of rules was drawn up with the help of the Wiltshire Football Association.
The very first League President was Mr Robbie Hughes and the Chairman was Mr Den Wheeler. The first Secretary was a Mrs Williams, but she moved away after two months, and this position was taken over by Mr A.R.N. Fry who went on to become the President of the League a position he held for many years.
So after many meetings and with it’s first Committee in place and just a couple of months after England had lifted the World cup on home soil the Chippenham & District Sunday Football League kicked off it’s very first season in September of 1966.
The very first season was made up of the following 12 teams, Bulwark United, Buxted, Chippenham Rovers, Chippenham Wessex, Kivel, P.O. Engineers, Seagry United, Devizes United, P.O. Rangers, Spartans, Untouchables and Westmead Albion.
At the end of the first season Devizes United topped the table, and it was now apparent that the original idea to form a Sunday morning League was well worth the effort.
The following season saw the inauguration of the Knockout Cup competition, with the final being staged at the Chippenham Town Ground, and the Mayor of Chippenham presented the Cup to Bulwark United.
Management Committee members were, and still are very enthusiastic, and come from several of the Clubs participating in the League.
It has been the policy of the Chippenham & District Sunday Football League from the start to make sure that all Referees are considered an important part of the running of the League, and several Referees and ex Referees have served on the Committee.
Since the inauguration in 1966 the league had grown in size to a maximum 65 teams, and on a few occasions in the 70’s and early 80’s boasted 6 divisions and over 75 teams, made up of teams from Chippenham, Melksham, Calne, Westbury, Trowbridge, Devizes, Bradford-on-Avon and many surrounding villages.
Over the years the Chippenham & District Sunday Football League has been involved in various Inter-League Tournaments; and went from strength to strength and had a purple patch through the 80’s were very successful in the highly acclaimed Wiltshire Sunday Cup has been secured by a number of our teams that have included Corsham Centre on four occasions, FC Jager, Biddestone Social, and prior to that Southwick United, Kivel and Black Sports.
The League at its peak did boast five divisions of 13 teams in each division, and on a few occasions in the 70’s and early 80’s boasted 6 divisions and over 75 teams, however, recent years has seen a decline in men’s 11 aside football and the league has reduced to 3 divisions with currently 36 teams involved and each season it is still pleasing to see new teams wanting to gain admission to one of the best run League’s in the County if not the Country.
As well as the Knockout Cup, the League operates the WG Parr Trophy first won by West End United in 1975 and ran the successful Ken Clarke Memorial Six-a-Side Tournament for many seasons. This was held at the beginning of each season in memory of the League’s former Registration Secretary, with all proceeds from this event going to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Fund. Proceeds from this event took the figure raised for the worthwhile cause over the years past the £15,000 mark.
When the weather permits it to, the League will run a Subsidiary Cup, but with the demise of many ‘B’ teams over the years, the League dropped the Reserve Team Cup in 1989.
Each season the league present annual awards for Fair Play, Best Club Assistant Referee or Linesman (as the older ones among us still call them), Best Senior and Best Junior Referee, Top Goal Scorer and the Player of the Season and The Gordon Blatchford Shield which is presented to an individual or club for outstanding service to the League.
The modern Chippenham & District Sunday Football League is still a strong league with the future in safe hands with Commercial Sponsorship which began at the start of the 1997/98 season when they were first sponsored by Chippenham based Shoestrings. Shoestrings returned to sponsor the league in 2015 and committed to sponsor the league in a three year deal, however their sponsorship has continued and been extended another year to cover the 2021/2022 season.
Since the first Shoestrings sponsorship deal, the League has been sponsored by locally based businesses; Vanitec Computers, Auto Business Solutions Ltd, Bath and Bristol based firm of Chartered Accountants Robson Taylor and S.K. Fruits Limited.
Locally based print company PresstoPrint (laterly Reebrooks) who at the time had branches in Trowbridge, Bath and Bristol sponsored the Knockout Cup competition for 15 years. The sponsorship of the Knockout Cup was taken on by local company A M Print & Copy for the 2013/14 season and they are in their eighth year sponsoring the competition.
The WG Parr Trophy was first sponsored by Trowbridge based Rainbow Launderette, and for many years by Westernsport Trophies, before RP Clarke Sheds & Fencing took on the sponsorship for the 2020/2021 season.
Over the years the Subsidiary Cup has seen many different sponsors, The Bath Chronicle and Dave Wolf Construction to name just a couple, that was until Westbury based Gooding Accounts took on the mantle a few years back and have been the main sponsor whenever we are in a position to run the competition.
Local newspaper The Gazette & Herald until recently sponsored the Player of the Season, Golden Boot and Secretary of the Year awards and operated the League’s Official Website for a period of time. A new sponsor hopes to be announced at the start of the new season.
Along with the Commercial Sponsorship, modern I.T. systems and good Media coverage makes communication a lot easier than it ever used to be. We also have the Football Associations Full Time system and Whole Game System (WGS) which helps greatly with the running of the league and communication with teams, referees and committee members, and at the start of the 2017/18 season we reintroduced the twitter page, which has been a great success.
It must always be remembered though, that the League still relies on volunteers, not only at Management level, but also among the teams that play, week in week out, and that is what the League was started for, 50 plus years ago.