Chelmsford Invitation League - The Early Years

Whilst the League was formally founded in 1981, just in time for the 1981/82 season, its foundations were being laid as early as 1979 when 4 Chelmsford works' based teams started organising friendly fixtures against one another. This was largely unheard of at the time as virtually all Sunday fixtures were confined to those organised by the existing League competitions or the ECFA.

A general lack of pitches meant that most of the friendly fixtures had to be played in the afternoon. Undaunted, the list of teams looking for a game had doubled by 1980 and a new social circle was quickly being established. Naturally, the more adventurous and ambitious teams amongst them aspired to joining the existing local leagues but they were all unsuccessful in their attempts - places generally being given to established Clubs who were adding a reserve or third team to their ranks. Inexperience was often cited as the main reason for failed attempts - but how were you supposed to get it?

The next step then was patently obvious - create a new League; the interest and enthusiasm was certainly there - it just needed someone to be brave enough to suggest it and, in so doing, commit themselves to the unenviable task of setting it all up! Enter Dave Edler.

Early records have, unfortunately, been lost but recollections are that Dave was the leading figure in the League's early development, ably assisted (with apologies for any omissions) by the likes of Roger Jeavons, John Perry, Mick Robinson, Neil Shipley, Rob Luton, and Peter Holloway. Six teams entered the first competition by way of Invitation, to a competition whose fundamental purpose was to provide organised football to teams regardless of previous experience, for they would all learn together. The first Clubs were Midland Bank, Angel, County Hotel, Good Easter, ECC Staff and City Olympic. Whilst they didn't join the League, Essex Water Board, Rowntree Mackintosh and Clay Pigeon are also worthy of mention in that their involvement in the early years helped create and maintain the impetus that led to the League we enjoy today.

The first two seasons were difficult. The League officials were inexperienced and mostly all very young whilst the knowledge and wisdom of officials from other competitions and the ECFA was neither sought nor freely offered. Referees were in short supply, particularly for afternoon fixtures, which most teams were forced into accepting. The inexperience of Club officials often resulted in late kick-offs, inadequate equipment and poor match-day organisation. Consequently, those fixtures covered by official referees often led to poor feedback to their colleagues which only served to fuel the referee shortage despite the exceptional levels of sportsmanship generally on display.

Unfairly branded "a one-season wonder" the League made its sceptics sit up and take notice when it secured Chelmsford City's facilities for its inaugural Cup Final, with County Hotel beating ECC Staff 5-2 to secure the double. This being the League Cup as the Divisional cups did not start until the 1983/84 season. The policy of using a Senior Club venue for our finals was therefore established and has been proudly maintained ever since.

Despite the early difficulties, the League's constitution had risen to 22 teams by its third season. This was a brave, some at the time said foolhardy, decision given the organisational difficulties involved. But, such was the desire of the new Clubs to be part of an organised competition, even one with referee coverage running at less than 30%, their applications were difficult to refuse. Whilst it was unfortunate that these referee levels were to continue for a further 3 years it is widely considered that this helped develop the high level of sportsmanship, friendly spirit and mutual co-operation between Clubs, referees and league officials that is maintained to this day.

The 1986-87 season saw a host of new faces on the League Committee. Due to work commitments Dave Edler had stood down as Secretary just prior to the completion of the previous season and was replaced by Peter Ginn. Chairman, Roger Jeavons, being the last of the original officers from 1981. Entering into its sixth season, the League needed to move up a level and change its image if it was to be taken seriously whilst making sure that its original objectives and friendly style remained intact. The efforts and commitment by our pioneering officers was exceptional but, whilst their methods were fine for a small group of teams, it was not suitable for a competition that had grown beyond all expectations. Dialog with officials from other Leagues and the Referees' Society was now being actively sought. By 1987 inroads were gradually being made and these barriers removed. In these respects the contributions of Cohn Hambrook, Secretary of the Pope & Smith Chelmsford Sunday League, Jim Quilter and Nick Reader of the Chelmsford Referees' Society, Dave Clark at Essex County FA and Harry Braybrooke, manager of Oakhouse FC and the League's newly appointed Referee Appointments Secretary, cannot be overstated.

Referee coverage quickly rose to 70% and the League started to get its due recognition and acceptance as a viable alternative to the more established leagues. The other competitions of course gratefully cherry-picked the more ambitious and organised of those Clubs from amongst our ranks, having been given their opportunity in, and duly educated by, ourselves. The outstanding levels of success by those teams who have moved on remains a testament to the endurance of the Invitation League.

The hard work had been completed. Recognition achieved. Twenty two teams and some 400 players & officials who would otherwise be kicking their heels on a Sunday morning were kicking a football instead. That made all the efforts feel worthwhile. But, as we now know, this was only the start.

Chelmsford Invitation League - 1986-2001

In 1986, after refereeing a game at Admirals Park with Marsham Arms being the home side, Roger Jeavons approached Roger Jakes the then Manager of the Marsham Arms club, and asked if he would consider becoming Vice Chairman to the league. He agreed to attend the meeting but, at that time, did not to say yes to Roger's proposal. However, by the end of the season, Roger Jakes had agreed to stand as Vice Chairman to the League and was voted into the post at the 1987-88 AGM.

Roger Jeavons continued as Chairman for a further 2 years and then stood down. Peter Goodwin brother of the leagues infamous (Gerry Goodwin, Running Mare Rota, formerly Slipstream and Vice Chairman for 7 years) then became Chairman, but stood down during the season due to work commitments. Roger Jakes took over as temporaryChairman for the rest of the season and was voted in as the Official League Chairman at the 1988/89 AGM and is still the League Chairman to this very day.

The League continued to grow with the assistance of new officers making their entry onto the league Committee.

In 1991/992, with the addition of referees now amounting to 16, the league decided it was time to grow to 3 Divisions.

It was in 1992 the league formed a representative side, organised mainly by Chris Dabrowski, now the manager of Brookhouse (former CIL club) in the Pope & Smith Premier, ably assisted by Keith Riley (New Lodge) and Tim Maddern (Willowbrook).A match was arranged with a representative side from the Pope & Smith League. The game was played at Lt Waltham's Ground, Tufnell Hall, on Thursday evening 21st May 1992. The result was 2-2.

The Pope & Smith side was organised by our then and current Chairman Roger Jakes.(The Pope and Smith side was chosen from Div's three to six). Below is a photo of the 1992 CIL side.

To date, trophies won outside of the league by league sides include: Penerol who in the 1997/98 season won the Area Essex Junior Trophy, and in the 1998/99 season Gt Baddow went even one further and won the Essex Junior Trophy County Final

Due to changes in the league Committee and with Chris Dabrowski gaining entry into the Pope & Smith League, the League representative side took a back seat for a few years until in the year 2000 when Barry Deer (Chelmer Village Athletic) volunteered to once again resurrect the league side this time assisted by Gavin Smith (Gallow Utd ). They met the Pope & Smith League side again at Witham Town one weekday evening and this time won 4-1.

The league held it's 20th Anniversary Dinner at the Gt Baddow Millennium Hall on Friday the 1st June 2001 with a 165 league members and Officers attending along with their wives and partners. It was an extremely successful night with our special guest of honour celebrity attending, in the name of Ricky George. Apart from his known fame has also just published a book called "One Goal, One Horse", with his wife Barbara. Other guests included Mick Elliott (Group 8 ECFA Representative) and his wife Val, Keith Ashley (Essex Referees Association Examinations Officer and Chelmsford Referees Society) and his wife Leah.

To date we have had 17 Committee positions filled over the years by no less than 61 personnel and 35 names, so as you can see some Officers have covered more than one position in a season over the years.

We have had 33 clubs who have assisted the league as Divisional Delegates since the 1989 season when they were first introduced, Matt Stamper (Selcombe Athletic) being the longest serving delegate for 7 seasons, Tim Maddern (Willowbrook) 6 seasons and John Hunter Rose & Crown/Wallis for 5 seasons

Apart from those already mentioned some other names involved in the earlier years were obviously Peter Ginn (League Secretary for 9 seasons) Steve Jennings, Andy Scrivener, Paul Martin, Graham Mears, John Graham, Tony Wood, Mark Allard, Denis Coles, Brian Benfield, Brian Goodwin,Peter Goodwin Jnr, (both sons of Gerry Goodwin) John Harrison, Chris Dabrowski ( Press & Publicity Officer for 5 seasons), and David Flack.

Some of our earlier teams who have gone on from our league to other leagues and been successful are Melbourne, Marsham Arms, Greenbourne, Gt Baddow, Westbeech /Haig Utd, Hutton, Brookhouse,Ravens,

Update on League History

Firstly we must mention the sad loss of Mike Smith who passed away on the 14th January 2001. He was our Registration Secretary from 1993-1994 then in 1994 became Minutes Secretary - a post he held until he sadly passed away on the 14th January 2001- a character still sadly missed.

2001 had a few changes to the league its Officers, teams & constitution. And yes we have come a long way from the early Dave Edler days. Obviously Some Officers have stood down and new Officers Elected in. After sixteen years as Chairman Roger Jakes has stood down and was elected the first President of the League with Terry Weeks also standing down 2 years later following 2 years as Chairman and is now the first Vice President of the League.

Some loyal supporters of the League have also called it a day such as Keith Riley, Fixture Sec (1990-1999), John West Referee Appointment Sec (1991 - 1997) and Treasurer (1998 - 2002). Ian & Trudi Harvey has also decided to call it a day Trudi was our Registration Secretary & Ian was our Press & Results Secretary. Nikki Hyland was our Treasurer for 4 years from 1998, Mick Kemp became the New League Secretary in 2000 following the standing down of Carol Jakes the Chairman’s Wife, who went on to become Minutes Secretary for 2 seasons till Mike Smith took over and Mick is still currently the League Secretary Aswell as the New Vice Chairman voted in 2007. Joe & Kerry Figg have taken on the role of Fines Secretary & Treasurer respectively.

Jeremy Mott & Trevor Williams got involved with the League in 1997, Trevor becoming the Referee Appointment’s Secretary and Jeremy the Asst Referee Appointments Secretary. Later Jeremy became the Referee appointment’s Secretary and Trevor became the Fixture Secretary both hold those positions to this day. Barbara Podd is our current Registration Secretary & Social Secretary, Mark Allum is our current Press & Results Secretary since 2005.Jim Haynes took over as Newsletter editor in 2000 after the position had been vacant for 3 seasons as is still doing a great job.

Regarding Divisional Delegates I think that John Hunter of Wallis F.C. (formerly Rose & Crown) deserves a mention as he has been a divisional delegate on this league since 1997 and still is currently a divisional delegate.

Although Mick Elliott the ECFA Representative is not involved with the league it must be said that unless he has other pressing engagements he has always attended our meetings for the last six years (2007) and it nice to see him & his wife Val at our Annual Dinner Dances that are still very well attended every year with a sell out attendance.

In 2004 Roger Jakes decided to stand down as chairman after 16 years and the league to say thankyou. As he is a devout Spurs supporter (and let everybody know especially the League Officers who were Arsenal supporters (cough) they arranged to have Steve Perryman as the Dinner’s Guest of Honour, If you could have seen Roger’s face when he walked through he door at Gt Baddow community centre’s hall, it was a picture. He had a great night talking to Steve Perryman and Steve’s helper Harry (great chap) Steve Perryman did a speech and at the end of it gave Roger a voucher for 3 tickets for (him & his 2 Son’s Stephen & Michael) to go and see any Spurs game and also have Dinner with him at White Hart Lane.

Hannakins Farm won the Essex Junior Trophy Area Final in 2004 then Hannakins Farm & Gallow United did the league proud by winning and coming runners up the Area Final of the Essex Junior Trophy in 2005 Hannakins Farm winning by beating Gallow United both being Invitation League sides in the County Trophy Final in 2005. The following year Hannakins Farm was the first Invitation League team to lift the Essex County Junior Cup. Well Done Guys. We must also say well done to Penerol (1997) Great Baddow (1999) Gallow Utd (2003&4)

We have gone from 3 Divisions back to 2 Divisions, then again back to 3, but now for the first time in our League history in the 2007/08 we have gone to 4 Divisions.

To sum up for the moment as you can see the League has come on leaps and bounds since the early days and that is down to the Officers, Referees & Teams that have been loyal to the league. So here is to the next few years before we update our history again. May success long continue.

Compiled by Peter Ginn & Roger Jakes.