Royce Franklin takes a nostalgic look back at how football has changed in the 67 years since he watched his first live match.
WHEN I first watched League football in the first season after the Second World War (1946/47), it was effectively a closed shop.
At the end of each season the bottom club from Division Three North and South applied for re-election. It seemed a perfunctory exercise simply to ensure that the teams seeking re-election would stay in the League.
No team outside the League gained League status until 1950/51 and that was only because the League chose to expand each of the third divisions from 22 to 24 clubs; Gillingham, Colchester, Shrewsbury and the then called Scunthorpe and Lindsey United were admitted.
The first team after the war to be ousted under the re-election system was New Brighton for 1951/52 season as Workington took their place.
Similarly the following were promoted to the League – Peterborough for Gateshead for 1960/61; Cambridge for Bradford Park Avenue 1970/71;
Hereford for Barrow 1972/73; Wimbledon (not the present AFC Wimbledon) for Workington 1977/78 and Wigan for Southport the following year. Additionally Oxford re-placed Accrington Stanley for 1962/63 after the Lancashire Club resigned.
For the season 1958/59 Division Three North and South were split with the top half of each forming the Third Division and the bottom Division Four.
Thereafter, four teams from division four had to apply to continue in the League.
Automatic promotion started at the end of the 1986/87 season and then it was for one team only. It was a start in making the fifth tier (now called National League) part of the tier system but even then relegation was not every season until the end of 1996/97. Kidderminster Harriers in 1994; Macclesfield (1995) and Stevenage (1996) were all refused promotion due to stadium criteria and the runners-up were not considered.
Today two teams are relegated as the supporters of Cheltenham and Tranmere last season will tell you. The length of time teams remain in the National League varies considerably. York took eight seasons to regain their League status while Bristol Rovers returned to the league this year at the first attempt.