When you think of the London Underground, you think of the vast network of Underground trains taking people to all parts of London whether they are visiting or working in the City. But beyond that, there is another side of the London Underground that not many people know of!
If you were to go to Market Road in Islington on a matchday, you would come across teams competing in the London Underground League. The league was formed in 1996 when Andy Anthony was asked to put together a league following a successful knockout tournament in which the District Line had beaten Piccadilly 2-1 in the Final. Many lines are represented in the league with clubs for the Piccadilly, Hammersmith & Circle, Northern, Metropolitan, District, Elizabeth, Waterloo & City and Jubilee as well as LOROL, British Transport Police and Tubelines.
The league was originally one division but when it was found that some teams were stronger than others, the decision was made to split the league into two division, giving the weaker teams a chance to compete.
“I like two divisions as opposed to one,” said Piccadilly manager Cem Toygar. “It gives teams more of an incentive to achieve greater things and be competitive all season in the form of relegation and promotion respectively. It makes the league more exciting. I’d even have 3 leagues with several teams in the waiting list but the budget we have won’t allow for it unless we receive a generous sponsor in the future.”
The expansion of the leagues would require additional teams joining the league, something Cem was all for. “I’d love to see a few more additional teams to add to the competitiveness of the game but also to have the entire network represented. There are teams such as the Victoria Line who will be rejoining us next season but I’d love to see a trams, DLR or Bus team involved too.”
Cem Toygar was merely a player for Piccadilly after working on the line but after troubles meant the club struggled, he decided to take over as the manager.
“I used to work at Russell Square (on the Piccadilly line) and I used to play for the team as a fringe player over the years. So I’ve always had a soft spot for Piccadilly and Northern line as I’m a North London guy. I’ve always lived between Archway and Highgate for most of my years. Piccadilly got relegated in 2014/15 and almost folded due to players not showing up at games with a small squad. I didn’t want to see them go and had a vision to make them a great team. It took me 3 seasons to get them back from division 2 back to division 1. We have won division 1 twice in the last two seasons since. Before that the last and only time the Piccadilly team won a division one title was in 2002/03 season.”
Cem had played for the line he worked on. This was a rule in the early years of the league but due to constant movement for workers on the Underground between lines, it was changed to allow players the chance to play for any line. “The league has relaxed rules on a player playing for certain teams based in where they work. A player could only play for a certain team if their station or depot was on that line. Being more flexible has improved reliability of players turning up for games. Also having players transfer from one team to another is also exciting. We kind of have our own transfer deadline day news!”
Players getting the chance to play for the team they chose meant rivalries were able to be built upon. The earliest rival was the District Line and the Piccadilly Line, due to the club’s being two of the founding members but Cem welcomed further rivalries. “Rivalries are a natural phenomenon and adds to the passion we already had in football,” he explained. “It raises the bar in regards to competitiveness and quality of football. I’d love to see more rivalries. Our main rival in the last two seasons have been Tubelines, currently our bogey team. They always step it up against us and provide a title challenge to us in the absence of District Line.”
Spectators have also increased at Market Road through the power of social media. “It’s always important to get more spectators. The fact that many didn’t know the league existed since 1996 and only found out about it due to social media is huge. Having fans or spectators or exposure can help the survival of our league and the possibility of acquiring sponsors from local businesses.”
Many of the supporters attending these matches are ground-hoppers of the more known world of Non-league. The thought of joining that world had certainly crossed his mind. “I’m a great fan of Dunstable Town whom I have volunteered for and gained some knowledge and understanding in the organisation needed to run a club and how to approach local businesses for sponsorship. I also love Caversham United. They are always active and interactive with all their fans on social media, showing how important social media is for the growth of your club.”
“I would love to be involved in the non-league system but it would mean we would have to leave the London Underground League. There are obviously regulations and more money needed to run and sustain a club like that. If it was a possibility, I definitely wouldn’t dismiss it.”
The club currently have a limited addition shirt on sale that looks the chairs on the Piccadilly. For more information head over to Twitter (https://twitter.com/piccadillyfc/status/1284175019925483521?s=21) or message them. You can follow the club on twitter; @PiccadillyFC
Photos: David Bauckham (@CentreCirclePub)