Way back in the early 1960's Buckinghamshire was selected by the Government of the day to become one of the sites for urgently needed national expansion. The South Bucks dominated County Council, fearful of the destruction of their exalted countryside, proposed a new “mono-rail” conurbation, to be based in the North of the County.
However, the Government decided that the design and control should be through a centrally appointed Development Corporation, and in 1967, the results of such early planning created the City of Milton Keynes. Thus began the long journey of evolution, which still continues today.
Until that point in time, North Bucks ( a basically rural, agrarian dominated community) was not in the forefront of progressive expansionism, but had begun to extend it's built up areas in the East and West of Bletchley.
Furthermore, it was the only area within the County that returned forward thinking, left of centre politicians to the County Council, dominated at that time by conservative attitudes. Perhaps this is an inheritance that still remains, and is, in part, responsible for the obvious success of the New City.
After the trauma of the second world war had begun to subside and the devastation it produced had been evaluated, the Bletchley Urban District Council decided to act in the national interest. As a result, they began to plan for the re-settlement of London's homeless, and the Lakes Estate was born.
Development had already commenced in Old Bletchley with the emergence of house building off Newton Road, and the establishment of the Saints and Castles estates. This area doubled the population within a very short time, and became an obvious area for planned and continuing expansion.
What about youth football? With the exception of the Scouts and the Boy's Brigade it simply did not occur outside the five secondary schools in the area. These had virtually little, if any, contact with schools in the middle or south of the County. Any growth in this activity was therefore very limited.
With the increased pace of house building in the North and the realisation that Milton Keynes was for real, brand new secondary schools in the expanding parts, particularly Bletchley, were conceived and built. Change was observed and most certainly on its way.
In 1966, the Carlton Club (based at the re-located Leon School) was formed and commenced playing in the Chiltern Youth League, centred on Luton. Denbigh Youth (originally based at Wilton School – now Lord Grey School) entered the Bedford Boys' League.
In those early days, boys could NOT play organised, affiliated football until the season after their ninth birthday. Thus a youngster, whose birthday was 1st August (the agreed date of qualification was 31st July to tie in with the school year) would be nearly ten – all but a day – before he was permitted to become involved. Training was also officially denied until the age qualification was reached by those hundreds of children who wished simply to play league football!!
It took a local deputation travelling to Lancaster Gate (the Football Association's headquarters) to get the Association to accept that a lad could play immediately after his ninth birthday – even if it did take three years for the controlling body to ratify this great step forward!!
Still NO girls allowed however, since the FA did NOT accept any responsibility for “ladies” football. It would take many more years for this situation to change, and until it did, the women's game was centrally and separately organised and administered by volunteers from a small office in Watford. Interested people from North Bucks were in contact.
In the spring of 1968, spurred on by the excitement generated by the New City's aspirations, and the success of both the Carlton and Denbigh Clubs, a few dedicated and progressive individuals met at the Bletchley Leisure Centre to consider the formation of their own, locally based youth league.
Representatives attended from long established senior clubs based in Newport Pagnell, Stony Stratford, Bletchley, Olney and Wolverton, together with leaders from the well organised and forward looking Youth Service. From their number a working party was established with a mandate to act as quickly as possible to establish local youth football.
In the September of 1968 the “Milton Keynes & District Youth League” commenced with eight teams at Under 11's and the same number at Under 13's.
Because of the official position, only boys were permitted to play in the newly established league, with the FA's truculence even banning girls and boys training together, since they expressly forbade any mixing of the sexes – even though it WAS the roaring sixties. Any defiance of this situation would immediately cause the offender to be in receipt of a severe sanction, or even possible expulsion from the County Football Association.
It has to be said that certain individuals, particularly one junior school head-teacher who incurred the wrath of the Buckinghamshire School's Football Association, turned a blind eye to what nowadays would constitute an infringement of human rights and individual freedoms. It should be noted that the FA still holds to certain restrictive practices no longer legally tolerated in other modern spheres of community work and play.
It was to their great credit, that the Milton Keynes Development Corporation was keen to preserve local history and gain the area's support. District names, for example, are based on ancient and long established field names.
Central Milton Keynes has connections with a turbulent past. The area, being both economically and geographically strategic, was, in the latter part of the first millennium, a region of considerable turmoil.
In the year 878AD, after the battle of Edgington, King Alfred the Great and Gunthrum of East Anglia, agreed the peaceful settlement of Wedmore and divided England into two halves. The North East became the area of the Danelaw, with the South West becoming English Mercia.
This was established at a Witan (or council of the leading men of Church and State) and commemorated locally today by Witan Gate, a north/south road in Central Milton Keynes running parallel with Saxon Street. Incidentally, each year, on 21st June- the longest day – the rising sun strikes along the length of Midsummer Boulevarde, and gives resonance with Stonehenge and the importance our forefathers paid to the sun and the power of it's rays.
For the record, the ancient and local Witan met on a small knoll that is now considered to have been sited behind the central library. The League's inclusive twenty-five mile membership radius is centred on the present day equivalent (the Milton Keynes City Church and the District Council Offices are adjacent) and this gives rise to it's present name of “Border Counties”
In fact, the actual Danelaw boundary cuts through the middle of the agreed membership zone and so the name is particularly appropriate. The name 'Mercians' means 'the Borderers' and is derived from it's position between the Anglo-Saxon settlements of the East and the British (pax Britannia) Kingdoms of the West. The border created is still very obvious.
This long accepted division ran from the East coast along the course of the River Thames until it reached it's confluence with the River Lea at Poplar. It then follows the courses of the River Lea northwest through Cheshunt, Hertford and Harpenden until it's source at Leagrave Marsh in Luton, then directly north to Bedford (an important Viking port) after which it followed the River Great Ouse westwards to Stony Stratford, then northwest along the Watling Street and onto the Welsh border country.
It is evident that this mix of Saxons, Angles, Britons and Vikings was the cause of constant feuding between the various protagonists in order to gain supremacy. Some people may be sufficiently petulant to suggest that little has changed in this respect, but such thoughts are obviously open to individual interpretation.
This frame of mind did continue down the years, and the advice of Thomas Elyot to parents in Henry V111's England was “...bowling, clash pins...be utterly abjected of all noblemen, in likewise football, wherein is nothing but beastly fury and extreme violence; whereof proceedeth hurt, and consequently rancour and malice doth remain with them that be wounded; whereof it is to be put in perpetual silence” Not too much of a change there then!!
Hopefully though, these attitudes have improved, and the earlier separation a thing of the past. So successful were those early years of the League's existence, that within three seasons from it's inauguration senior officers of the League, and those from the Buckingham Boy's League (a long established competition catering for the smaller and thriving village youth teams west of the New City) met together and agreed to amalgamate and create a new and enhanced group of contestants.
This mutually approved and benevolent decision also created the need for another name to reflect this change and growing status. With history considered and the geographic position important, the present name was adopted to express the sense of growth and optimism within it's ranks.
The League now had a strong foothold in three Counties, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, and, for a while, a team from a large non-league club in Oxfordshire.
To accommodate a growing dilemma between school and junior football clubs (both played on Saturdays – schools in the morning; clubs in the afternoon) the conciliatory step was taken unilaterally to play on Sundays. This helped to produce better relationships and opened up more facilities. However, after a national and total walkout by teachers over a significant pay dispute, after school activities were dealt a severe blow from which they have never fully recovered.
At about the same time- in the mid-seventies – it became increasingly clear that clubs required mixed football, and that it should commence at a younger age. One man of considerable vision, enthusiasm and energy (plus a level of single-mindedness as it turned out) decided to put that right and take matters into his own hands. At the Bletchley Youth Centre in Derwent Drive, he began playing friendly football matches between Member Clubs on a mixed gender basis, and with children as young as four years old!
This did NOT meet with official approval and after much discussion and soul-searching, the Buckinghamshire County Council together with the County Football Association decided to instruct the workers at the Youth Centre under it's jurisdiction to desist from it's support of this venture.
With considerable reluctance this occurred, and a completely separate and “unorganised” group continued on it's way, based at Wellsmead Middle School in Bletchley. After some months and an agreement to formulate a set of acceptable rules, the Milton Keynes Nursery Fives came into existence. That embryonic group was the forerunner of the Junior League that is operating today.
During this period Clubs began to take members on trips into Europe, and in particular the Netherlands, and were confronted with the system in operation there. This naturally created considerable discussion and a certain level of envy, and it was not too long before the Football Association was pressurised into creating what was almost a revolution – mini-soccer!!
However, the reluctance of some factions that became responsible for the obvious and required development created delay and division within children's football, the ramifications from which may still be seen today. This is most apparent in the lack of significant progress in the area of girls' football. Mixed teams are still few and far between at the younger age levels and is NOT allowed at all by the Football Association beyond the under elevens' age group.
From the early 80s the Milton Keynes & Border Counties Youth Football League continued to grow in size and stature along with that of the New City. A city which now boasts the fastest growing conurbation with the largest percentage of school-age children in the Country. It is considered a “can do” community, and it is both satisfying and refreshing to know that it's twenty-five mile radius catchment area is now well established and brings with it a wide range of people from other neighbourhoods with differing ideas and experiences, thus helping to make the League what it has become; the largest youth organisation in the area with a skilled and dedicated group of adults helping to continue it's progress.
The League has grown from a dozen or so original Clubs with less than 250 registered players, into one comprising well over sixty Clubs with more than four thousand registered players, and in the region of one thousand face-to-face adult providers creating a competition of worth, enjoyed by all those who are involved.
Milton Keynes, and by implication, it's adjacent communities, is an obvious success story. So much so, that in the spring of 1997, it had the desire, impetus and ability to become a self-governing Unitary Authority, and broke away from it's political ties with the rest of Buckinghamshire.
This political independence created in its wake, a thrusting and growing legacy in sport, art, drama and music, together with a wide range of other cultural activities as may be observed, for example, by it's theatre of national distinction. Other establishments makes this point very strongly.
At roughly the same time – the late 1990's – moves were being made to not only bring in a major league club, but to commence the planning of what had always been a significant project within the original master plan of the City – it's very own football stadium. An issue long discussed and desired.
Senior members of the Border Counties executive were closely involved with the Chairman of the consortium working on bringing professional football to Milton Keynes, and on 27th September 2003, Wimbledon (who had been eventually given permission to relocate by the Football Association) played their very first game in the City. This was against Burnley Football Club at the National Hockey Stadium.
The event gave a remarkable lift to local football, particularly since, a year later, on 30th June 2004 (which now seems light years away) the name became Milton Keynes Dons, and the area had, at last, it's very own League Club. Something many had wished for over decades, but had begun to wonder if it would ever happen. Once again, one man's dedication ensured that it did.
The growing links between MK Dons and the League are considered important for the future development of youth football in Milton Keynes and the border counties. This aspect of the League's evolution is gathering pace to the overall advantage of all concerned. Particularly as a result of the impressive new Stadium.
It may be worth noting, that the MK Dons Chairman is on record as acknowledging that his initial serious interest in football was fostered by his son playing in the local Youth League. What sort of parent he was on the touch-line is not recorded!!
At the conclusion of the 2008-2009 season, the League was forty years old, and since many of the original registered players are now watching their own children playing the game, this is well worthy of note.
The next forty years will see the present players have participating children of their own, and may well be in managerial positions themselves, such is the nature of progress.
The Border Counties League has had an interesting and informative influence on youth football in the area, and has been helped and supported by a considerable number of individuals and organisations that have been of great influence upon it's existence over the years.
Naturally, those involved within the organisation are grateful for all of this co-operation and assistance. Without it, the present position could not have been achieved, and the area's sporting history would have been somewhat poorer as a result. Working together has accomplished a great deal.
Without doubt, King Alfred had little idea that over a thousand years later, comment and discussion would still range around the name of Border Counties and the effect it would be having on the local communities. But in any case, that is partly understandable – he was too busy burning cakes!!
Over the years our name has changed to reflect the
support of sponsors, but we will always include 'Milton Keynes and Border
Counties' in the League's name, not only to recognise the area which we serve,
but to acknowledge our roots which go back to the early sixties. We are currently looking for Sponsorship for the various aspects
of the League. If you are interested in becoming a League sponsor please
click here for details.
The aim of our League is to provide the youth of Milton Keynes and the surrounding district with the opportunity to play good, sporting association football in an organised competition. On the subject of sportsmanship you may know that our original League badge incorporated the official Football Association (FA) Fair Play logo. We sought and gained FA permission to use this logo as we felt very strongly that this side of the game should be given equal prominence as the playing side. Unfortunately fair play can all too easily be given less prominence, and consequently less importance, but we do our utmost to ensure this is not the case in our League.
The current logo incorporates the map of Milton
Keynes and the recognised colours of Berks and Bucks FA (our parent County
Association) and was introduced at the start of the 2012/13 season. The League
has also designed its own Fair Play logo now and this is used for all Fair Play
medals awarded each season.
The League is affiliated to the Berks & Bucks Football Association and consists of Clubs whose headquarters are within a 25 mile radius of Central Milton Keynes (regardless of which County FA they are affiliated to). We therefore have Clubs from Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire playing in our Competitions as well.
If you wish to receive any further details about the League do contact us using the e-mail facility and one of our Management Committee members will respond as soon as they can.