Somerset Football Association has come a long way since it was founded in 1885, originally being run by a Committee.
During the 1890’s many Council meetings took place at The Railway Hotel, Evercreech Junction, most likely to enable members to travel by rail. It was also the year that saw the formation of a committee to manage the Referees Association for the County.
In 1897 players chosen to represent the county were lobbied to make a choice between badges or caps with costs not to exceed 5/-, they chose the latter. By popular demand council also agreed to the formation of the North Somerset League covering the Norton/Radstock/Paulton area.
The County Logo at the turn of the century depicted four Regions---Bath, Bridgwater, Taunton and Wells---rather than the customary dragon.
June 1902 showed the importance of Royalty to the Football Association when the Somerset v Gloucester County Match was prevented being played due to the lamented death of Queen Victoria.
The 1903 AGM resolved to hold all committee meetings at one venue for the coming season at Shepton Mallet. It was also resolved that all Senior Clubs where possible rope or wire off their field of play. An FA Bye-Law where Senior Leagues were restricted from employing Referees other than Somerset Referees was rescinded. The Referees Committee recommended that the whistle be blown as a signal for taking penalties and other free kicks.
The oldest known Somerset County Handbook is a 133 page booklet for season 1904-05 priced at a penny. This was the season that the County elected its first Chairman, a Radstock Headmaster Mr Charles Lewin our first FA Councillor; he remained in post until 1945, a truly remarkable servant.
In 1907 the FA drew attention to the overlapping of the Association and Gloucester FA in and around the Bristol Area.
It was in June 1908 that a Bath member moved that the Association be governed by a Council as opposed to a Committee and a Sub Committee was appointed to go into the matter, draw up a scheme and report back. This was progressed on the 1st. May 1909 when a Special General Meeting was held at Shepton Mallet to consider the scheme and the proposals which were adopted. This resulted in setting up of a Council comprising of a President, Chairman, and Referees Secretary with one Representative for each ten affiliated Clubs, Leagues and Competitions, or a fraction thereof in each Parliamentary Division. Based on the number of Clubs, Leagues and Competitions this resulted in nineteen representatives covering Northern, Wells, Frome, Southern, Bridgwater, Taunton/Wellington, Bath Borough and Eastern Divisions.
At the June meeting the Somerset County Referees Committee gave notice that at the next AGM they would be seeking self-control in lieu if being under the auspices of the county.
The first meeting of the newly elected Council was held in Shepton Mallet on 6th.September 1909 with the Chairman Mr. Charles Lewin---whom our current Headquarters is named after----congratulating those elected with the hope that the Associations business would continue to be as harmonious as it was as a Committee.
In May 1910, something unusual took place when the Secretary was authorised to open up communications with the Rugby Union to come to an arrangement for mutual protection and to co-operate in the suspension of players something the Rugby Union subsequently agreed to recognise with effect from September 1910. The Council also decided in December of that year to set up a Benevolent Fund. This fund is still operating today.
Subsequent to the above agreement the Somerset Rugby Union---and Devon FA---sent congratulatory letters to the county on winning the Divisional section of the Southern Counties Championship in 1912.
In 1913 enquiries were made of the Middlesex FA regarding the possibility of a continental tour; with a guarantee of £60-£80 being required, a loss would probably be made so it was resolved that the suggestion would not be entertained at present.
Due to the First World War, a decision was taken in October 1914 not to produce a County Handbook with the majority of Clubs disbanded and just three competitions running. In December all Council meetings were suspended with business being continued by an Emergency Committee at the discretion of the Chairman and Secretary. September 1915 saw the abandonment of all competitions for the duration of the war.
Football resumed when in 1919 the Emergency Committee decided that Officers, Council and Committee remain in office until the 1920 AGM. The intention of keeping a roll of honour for all Somerset footballers who had during the hostilities made the supreme sacrifice had to be aborted; as the numbers were too great it was impossible to record all those who had fallen.
The June 1920 AGM reported 150 clubs affiliated with 24 leagues and competitions.
February 1922 the County supported a resolution from Lincolnshire FA for an increase in ticket allocations for the FA Cup Finals. The FA responded that the final would be played at Wembley Park in 1923 and counties would be allocated all seats they may reasonably require.
In January 1924 FA Council ruled that the growing practice of clubs and supporters launching schemes for fund raising by sweep stakes, lotteries and other means was not only illegal but calculated to bring the game into disrepute.
By the time of the June 1925 AGM the number of affiliated clubs had grown to 200, with 54 leagues and competitions under the county’s control but by June 1927 AGM the affiliated clubs had reduced to 190.
During the year of the General Strike in May 1926 the FA decreed “That in the state of the present unsettled conditions of industrial affairs, only authorised football be played by its members until further order. Competition matches must not be played nor may any payment be made or prizes given to players.”
In 1927 a view was expressed that Members of Council spent a wanton waste of time and money on hearings for misconduct. A proposal was made and carried “That a Disciplinary Commission be appointed in Divisions and Council meetings be bi-monthly”.
January 1930 saw clubs being offered the opportunity to play matches in support of the Somerset Floods Relief Fund.
A letter received from the C E U S Branch of the Bath & Wells Diocesan Union in April 1931 appealed for Good Friday to be kept free of football matches. A reply was made to the effect that no matches are ever arranged and players cannot be compelled to play on that day.
The June 1932 AGM reported for the second season running a loss on the season’s work of £100 which had to be withdrawn from the reserve fund to balance the account.
In January 1933 a dispute arose over a player at an address, Chatterton Place, Redcliffe, Bristol, the appealing club being successful in suggesting that this was in the county of Gloucester, confirmed by the Postal Authorities. Eventually this was overturned using The Floating Harbour being the boundary between Somerset and Gloucester, an interesting judgement in view of the 1908 boundary commission line.
A similar protest in February 1935 occurred over an address at Langton Street, Redcliffe being in Gloucester. On this occasion Kelly’s Directory established the address as being in Somerset. Even now in the 21st. Century there remains differences of opinion on where the County Boundaries lie a continuing theme despite further decisions below.
At a meeting in February 1936: A resolution was passed by the county expressing profound grief at the passing of our beloved King George whose kindly interest in sport was greatly appreciated and we humbly tendered our heartfelt sympathy to her Majesty and the Royal Family.
In October 1937 a letter of thanks was sent to Mr S F Rous, FGA secretary at that time for delivering an address on minor football before a large gathering at Bridgwater. December 1937 recorded that this was the point at which the county first introduced player fines in addition to suspensions but it seemed to be discontinued after three months, 2/6p and 5/- being the norm.
As a result of a circular issued during October 1939, January 1940 ascertained that competition football was being run in nine areas of the county, suspended in others. At this point it was decided to run the county's affairs for the duration of hostilities by a War Time Sub Committee comprising the Chairman and five other members. Meetings were few and far between, being held on 7th December 1940, 6th September 1942 and 6th June 1945. Minutes from August 1940 indicate that the FA instructed the conditions upon which football should be played, laying stress on the fact, any directions by the Home Office or Police must be observed.
Minutes September 1945 recorded that eight leagues were likely to run during that season being West Somerset, Cheddar Valley, Yeovil, Bridgwater, Weston-Super Mare, Bath and Taunton Saturday.
At the end of the second world war and for a long period, discipline hearings were held by full council monthly at the Railway Hotel, Wells. On the formation of a Disciplinary Committee, hearings were then held at The Mermaid, followed by The Fountain both in Wells and then our Midsomer Norton Office. With the latter being in the north of the county, it was agreed in the early decade of the 21st Century to also hold hearings at Taunton to assist in travelling arrangements for the southern based clubs. On purchasing our new offices in 2009, all hearings are now held at Charles Lewin House.
September 1947 showed that in response to an enquiry the FA had ruled that “German prisoners of war are not allowed to play for civilian clubs”It was reported in November 1947 that a letter had been received from Mr E Shinwell, Minister of Fuel and Power regretting his inability to grant to the FA a supply of petrol coupons for county association, clubs, referees, coaches etc. In view of this a rota was drawn up by council members to travel in groups from various locations. The last meeting at the Star Hotel took place in December 1947 and it was reported that the new venue would be the Railway Hotel, Glastonbury Road, Wells.
!948 saw the setting up of a competition under the title of the Professional Cup, it subsequently became and is at present the Somerset FA Premier Cup
September 1950 referred to the problem vis a vis: The geographical position of Somerset and Gloucestershire which had long been on-going had been referred to the FA who had intimated a commission would be appointed. The following December the FA wrote that a further search of their records had resolved that the Overlapping Commission of 1908 stated that Somerset County FA was not overlapped and the area in the County of Somerset, also decided that Gloucester was not overlapped, their area was the County of Gloucester and the City and County of Bristol and the ground or headquarters of a club qualified for membership. From this map the river Avon does not form the boundary between the two counties entirely but an area practically from Nightingale Valley to Jeffrys Hill to where the river is definitely within the County Borough of Bristol and there is no doubt about it that Bedminster Parson Street Station and Bedminster Down are within the City of Bristol. Brislington Station appeared to be exactly on the boundary line. St Anne’s is in Somerset. Upon the invite of Sir Stanley Rous the council stated their wish to pursue the matter further through a Commission. A Commission was set up at Lancaster Gate, London W2 for Friday 12th January 1951 to further investigate.
February 1951 the decision was reported: That clubs whose headquarters are in and Referees who reside in that area of the City and County of Bristol which has extended into the County of Somerset or in any way contemplated extensions by that administrative body, should affiliate to or register with the Somerset FA as their parent Association and, if they wish, also apply to affiliate to or register with the Gloucester FA.
A resolution was passed in January 1952 ruling that in future members of council should refrain from smoking during the hearing of misconduct cases. A circular was also received from the FA stating that in no circumstances would the Association entertain Sunday Football.
May 1952 recorded that Sir Stanley Rous had been welcomed to Somerset on May 10th where he presented the professional cup to Bath City at Glastonbury in the afternoon and was guest speaker at the first Referees annual dinner in the evening at Weston Super Mare.
July 1956 Council resolved that an insignia be purchased for the Chairman; it was not deemed suitable for present day purposes at that time.
From 1956 onwards most of our history of general interest peters out with council’s time from our minutes containing little else other than misconduct.
We do know that the county was renamed Somerset & Avon (South) 1978/79 season and reverted to Somerset 1994/95. This was done because had football been restructured the majority of clubs were in Avon.
In the mid 1970's after a period where he was paid a honorarium, Lewis Webb became the first appointed full time secretary, working from home. After his demise in Helen Marchment became the first county lady secretary. This position has evolved and replaced by a Chief Executive.
However, on Friday 3 April 1987 an article appeared in the Evening Post which is in itself worth repeating with reference at the time to this history of Somerset FA.
During this time the workload of the county had increased enormously. In the early 90’s we operated with a staff of two permanent and three temporaries. In 1999 we became a Company Limited by Guarantee; this began the period of what had in the past been a Governance team now being supported by a Development team with the FA financing much of the development work in raising the profile of our National game. By 2009 the staff numbers had risen to nine full time and three part time, subsequently twelve and one respectively, eight of which are Development assigned, all led by the newly appointed Chief Executive. We also work closely with five FA Skills Coaches and three FA supported Football Development Officers. At the time of incorporation ten Directors were also appointed since reduced to eight and they are responsible for the running of the Association each one with identified areas. Most of this came about with the FA introducing development plans for every county culminating in their increased investment into grass roots football. To access this funding in the early years of 2000 a County Plan had to be produced and since 2015 a Business Plan has been added and we have to go before a Regional Assessment Panel to present our case for them to support and clear with the National Game Board.
The above are additionally supported by a volunteer workforce of councillors elected by their various leagues clubs and associations. In 2012 after a review which took two years to complete the council was reduced from seventy six to fifty two by eliminating Divisional Representatives and giving the leagues increased numbers on a pro rata basis of one representative for each forty teams.
Toward the latter end of the 20th.Century council resolved that we should seek to purchase our own Headquarters with a move from Midsomer Norton to somewhere more central. A considerable sum of revenue was invested in the initial proposal to move to a purpose built premises at Wells City FC which eventually had to be aborted. There followed an investigation on a move to Glastonbury FC which again proved to be impossible through conditions imposed. However, not to be beaten we then pursued the purchase of new property being built under the jurisdiction of the South West Development Agency which once more did not come to fruition due to a new build being observed at the Wirral Business Park, Glastonbury. This resulted in a successful application and negotiations with the builder culminating in at last having our own Headquarters which we moved into on 1st. October 2009.