Thames AFC

Thames Association Football Club was an English football club from Custom House, East London (at the time part of Essex), who briefly played in the Football League between 1930 and 1932.

Unlike other AFCs such as Sunderland A.F.C., the word Association was initially presented as part of the club name i.e. Thames Association or Thames Association FC. The "Association" was abbreviated upon joining the Football League, giving the team the more regular name of Thames AFC.

They were founded in 1928, in a similar manner to New Brighton Tower and Chelsea, to play on a ground which had no football club in residence.  In Thames' case, they were formed by a group of businessmen who had built the West Ham Stadium, with a capacity of 120,000, in the Custom House area of Essex (now Greater London); the stadium was primarily used for greyhound and speedway racing which took place during the week, leaving Saturdays free.   Because of its huge capacity it was the biggest stadium in England at the time and was earmarked to compete directly against Wembley Stadium as a venue for all sports.    The directors of the stadium decided to form a professional football club to play on Saturdays, to bring in additional revenue to the stadium.

The club began playing in the Southern League Eastern Division, and finished 14th in their first season and third in the season after that (1929–30).  This was enough for them to gain election to the Football League Third Division South in the summer of 1930, in place of Merthyr Town.  Thames continued to field a reserve side in the Southern League for a single further season, before withdrawing entirely in 1931.

A page from a Thames AFC programme on March 7th 1931

Thames' spell in the Football League was a short and unhappy one; such was the struggle to attract spectators, despite the stadium's capacity of 120,000 (making it the largest ground in England to regularly host League football), the club holds the record for the lowest known attendance for a Saturday Football League match; just 469 fans paid to watch Thames play Luton Town on December 6th 1930.  This record might be disputed by Middlesbrough Ironopolis who were watched by around 200 spectators on November 25th 1893 in a game against Small Heath.

Unable to compete with established teams nearby, such as Charlton Athletic, Clapton Orient, Millwall and West Ham United, Thames struggled. They finished 20th out of 22 clubs in 1930-31, and 22nd (i.e., bottom) the following season (1931-32).

This prompted the club directors' decision to not to seek re-election to the League for the following season and wind up the club, despite an approach from Clapton Orient to merge the two clubs. They were replaced by Aldershot.

Thames AFC should not be confused with Thames Ironworks FC, a club that had predated them by over 30 years, and would go on to be renamed West Ham United.

West Ham Stadium was home to Thames AFC

Thames' home colours were red and blue quartered shirts with white shorts and black socks with red and blue trim. Thames' record for their two seasons in the Football League was played 84, won 20, drew 17, lost 47, scored 107 and conceded 202. The club's record league win was 6-3, against Mansfield Town on 2 April 1932, while their record league loss was 8–0, against Luton Town on 11 April 1931 and Fulham on 28 March 1932.  The furthest they ever reached in the FA Cup was the First Round proper, in 1929-30, 1930-31 and 1931-32.   In total, 103,698 fans watched all of Thames' games, at an average of 2,469 per game, which ranks them as 122 out of all the 130 Football League teams in terms of attendance.  The club's record highest attendance was approximately 8,000, against Exeter City in August 1931.  The stadium continued to host greyhound and speedway right up until 1972, although the capacity was reduced due to safety issues at regular intervals.  Finally it became too expensive to run and the ground was sold to property developers.  Today it is a housing estate with nothing to show of its proud history than a few street names with nods to the sports that were once played there.

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