In the early seventies a number of clubs, not wanting to be part of the increasingly bureaucratic Oxford Sunday League, arranged matches among themselves. By comparing notes on various enjoyable games, the clubs built up a data base of contacts and arranged further games on a hit or miss system of telephoning for open dates and available pitches.
After a particularly enjoyable game in 1975, between Gobeys Sports and Abingdon Park, which prompted the official class 1 referee to write a letter of congratulations, it was suggested that a fixture list could be prepared for a number of the better organised clubs to ensure a less erratic set of fixtures.
Clubs were invited to an open meeting in the canteen of Abbey Press and thirteen clubs sent representatives:
Abbey Press Abingdon printing firm
Andrews Kent & Stone Oxford firm of Civil Engineers
Burgess Sports Abingdon Printing firm
George & Dragon Pub at Upton near Didcot
Gobeys Sports Small building firm from Oxford
Habitats Warehouse distribution in Wallingford
Hagbourne Only village club involved
Hyford Business machines firm from Oxford
Howberry Park Employees of Water Research Wallingford
Kings Arms Steventon Pub, now demolished
Oxford NALGO Local government officers for Oxford city
Oxford Taxes Oxfordshire taxation office
The general consensus was that the formal league structure of the only Sunday league in the area, with its disciplinary committee had gone power crazy and was to be avoided.
It was decided that the loose alliance of clubs would be governed by regular meetings of club representatives, where the only sanction against misbehaviour would be to face a warning followed by persistent offenders being dropped from the fixtures.
Clubs decided that although they did not want the drawback of a committee run league they would still like the incentive of 'something to play for' and voted to pool an amount of money to purchase two sets of medals and cover any costs of the organisation.
Of the clubs attending the meeting only Burgess Sports decided not to take part and they were subsequently replaced by Kings Arms, Horton-cum-Studley.
Clubs were asked for any fixture commitments, such as National Tax Office Cup, and traditional touring fixtures and a fixture list was prepared, opening with two fixtures on 12 September 1976.
Habitats beat an ill prepared Oxford Taxes 5-0 and Gobeys Sports edged out Abbey Press 3-2.
The season progressed with George and Dragon, Kings Arms Steventon and Gobeys showing early promise.
Weekly meetings were held in the main bar of the Bystander at Wootton, where complaints and compliments were aired, instant justice despatched, weekend results compared and impending fixtures organised, often to the surprise of the pubs ordinary customers.
At the end of 1976, Abingdon Park led the 'table' from Gobeys Sports while Hagbourne gained their first points the week before Christmas.
Both the leading teams faltered in the New Year and after the lads from Steventon improved their boisterous behaviour under a threat to drop them from the fixtures, both Oxford NALGO and Kings Arms Steventon made headway.
There was plenty of enjoyable rivalry in each section of the table throughout the season and, after some fixture difficulty later on the 'title' was decided in the final game of the season at Appleton, between NALGO who only needed to draw, and Kings Arms, who had to win to take the title on goal difference. A second and winning goal five minutes from time gave the game and top spot to the pub team.
KingsArms Steventon 24 18 3 3 110 38 39
Oxford City NALGO 24 18 3 3 105 38 39
George & Dragon 24 16 4 4 107 44 36
Gobeys Sports 24 16 1 7 92 44 33
Abingdon Park 24 15 1 8 91 66 31
Hyford 24 12 4 8 56 57 28
Oxford Taxes 23 10 5 8 85 49 25
Andrews Kent & Stone 24 10 4 10 72 63 24
Habitats 24 8 0 16 61 105 16
Abbey Press 24 5 4 15 42 99 14
Kings Arms Horton 23 4 4 15 44 84 12
Howberry Park 24 3 1 20 43 154 7
Hagbourne 24 2 2 20 50 117 6
Most clubs voted the first season a great improvement over previous seasons, although a few said that, because of the number of clubs showing interest in joining they did not feel that the organisation could continue to be run by unrestricted numbers of representatives of the clubs meeting in a pub.
Some of the prime movers of the league; Chris Wykes (Gobeys), Tim Siret (Abingdon Park), Denis Westall (Hyford), …….. …….. (Abbey Press), Alan …… (George & Dragon), etc. received offers from others, notably Ray Wood (Eagle Little Coxwell), Fred Carroll (Wantage Labour Club) and Peter Saxel (Standlake Garage) to help with the weekly running of the now 24 strong club, two division league.
Eagle, Little Coxwell
Post Office Vaults
Blue Boar, Ardington
Oxford Exiles ?
Wantage Labour Club
The second season saw the introduction of a cup competition and Fred Carroll obtained the use of Wantage Town's ground to play the final, between Wantage Labour Club and ………
The Oxford Mail reporter at the game wanted to know the background to the league and, more importantly, its title. As it had previously only been referred to as the friendly league, a name had to be chosen on the spot. The suggested 'Thames Valley Sunday League' was rejected by the reporter who knew of one, based in Slough, of that name. It was a natural progression to consider ourselves further UP the valley than Slough. Hence the Upper Thames Valley Sunday League was born.
When it became obvious that many more teams were interested in joining the areas 'alternative league, Fred Carroll pointed out that although all the clubs involved were properly registered, it was about time the 'League' became official.
Meetings held in Chris Wykes' house became unmanageable and Fred Carroll obtained free use of a room at the Wantage Labour Club. The landlord, Pat Devenney, was made President in recognition of his encouragement and generosity.
Rules were drawn up and a map drawn of all member clubs to find out where the geographical centre point of the league was. This turned out to be at the cross-roads of the Marcham road at Kingston Bagpuize, so this was incorporated in the rules.
Ray Wood proved to be an excellent choice as secretary and energetically steered the league in its formative years, drawing on the organisational and procedural skills of 'union man' Fred Carroll and the enthusiasm of the committee members.
The league took on a very professional air and the history of its progress can now be completed by others.
Our thanks go to Tim Siret for the above history; but as can be seen there are a few gaps. If there is anybody out there who can throw some light on the blanks or can add to it, please contact us.