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28 October 2014
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The Downs League is 100 years old this year

Downs League is 100!

Every Saturday hundreds of Bristolian footballers descend on the huge greenland area known as Downs to play in one of England's most unique leagues.


Downs League History

  • The first game of the 2005/06 season is on Thursday between Cotswool and Portland Old Boys, contesting the BBC Bristol Charity Cup
  • The league was formed in 1905 with 30 teams including St Andrews and Sneyd Park
  • Downs team Union Jack beat Chetenham 6-3 in the FA Cup during the 1920s
  • Clifton St Vincents won six championships in the 1950s
  • St Gabriels equalled Union Jack's seven successive championships between 1969 and 1975


The Downs League currently has more than 50 teams in four divisions and is one of the few leagues which plays all its matches on one site.

Football pitches on the picturesque Downs are right next to each other - helping to stoke the rivalry between the teams.

There are two knockout cup competitions. The Norman Hardy Cup (for teams from Divisions One and Two) and the All Saints Cup (for teams from Divisions Three and Four).

Organised football in Bristol started in the 1880s and football started on the Downs in the same year. This was partly due to the introduction of trams that ran from the city centre to the top of Blackboy Hill and meant players could ride them up and down the hill.

The league was formed out of teams already playing in the city and on the Downs' many pitches.

St Andrews and Sneyd Park were among 30 teams which formed the inaugural league in 1905. Both clubs still remain in the league today.

Sneyd Park has achieved an even more impressive feat of staying in the top division ever since the first season.

Another well-known club, Clifton St Vincents, joined the league in the second season. All three clubs are now more than 100 years old.

The dominant club in the league in the 1920s was Union Jack, whose greatest achievement was to beat Cheltenham Town 6-3 away in the FA Cup in 1925.

Union Jack could even boast an international player of the future in Eddie Hapgood, who went on to captain Arsenal and England in the 1930s.

In 10 seasons Union Jack won the league nine times and came second on the other occasion.

The 1930s was the decade of Dockland Settlement with six championships in seven seasons.

However, after the Second World War the league was probably at its strongest with many players leaving the league to turn professional.

In the 1950s Clifton St Vincents won six championships, but St Gabriels equalled Union Jack's record of seven successive championship in the years 1969 to 1975.

The 1980s saw the Saints win seven championships, including six on the trot. However, in recent years Clifton St Vincents and Sneyd Park have been the dominant sides in the league.

A Downs League XI takes on a BBC celebrity XI, which includes Radio Bristol's Geoff Twentyman, on the Downs on Tuesday night. The game kicks off at 6.15pm.

last updated: 06/09/05
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