YORK football has lost its most historic club after Rowntree quit the York Minster Engineering Football League.

The club, who have been part of the league since its foundation in 1897, have been forced to disband “due to a lack of players and continuing financial pressures”.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Rowntree were York’s most successful club – winning numerous trophies including the Northern Counties East League division two title at their first attempt in 1983.

Four times runners-up in division one, they won the NCEL title in 1989/90, but were relegated back to division two because their Mille Crux ground did not comply with new regulations.

The club, which has produced the likes of York City players Neil Grayson, Andy McMillan and Andy Leaning, dominated both the Teesside and West Yorkshire Leagues before returning to the York Minster Engineering competition, where they had remained represented by a reserve outfit.

Rowntree finished tenth in the premier division last year.

A league statement, ahead of this year’s kick off on Saturday, said: “When the York Minster Engineering Football League kicks off this coming Saturday, it will be without its most historic and well known club.

“Rowntrees, who have been part of the league since it was founded in 1897, have been forced to quit due to a lack of players and continuing financial pressures.

“Despite the continued hard work of Mick Hodgson and other members of the Rowntrees backroom and playing staff, the club has suffered several recent setbacks which have seen them left with no choice but to end their 116-year unbroken stay in the league – the only team with such a record.

“Unfortunately, the withdrawal of funding from Nestlé and the more recent loss of their Mille Crux home to York St John University have proven to be the final nails in the coffin of a club who can proudly claim to be ten times York League champions, and who won the Northern Counties East League division one as recently as 1990.”

Pickering Town manager Jimmy Reid, who spent his entire playing career at Rowntree, said he was very upset to hear of the club’s closure.

“It is so sad,” he said. “The club was a big part of my life and I loved it. I started when I came back to York at 18 until I was 35. It was a huge part of my life. I played at Rowntrees because I loved it there. The ground was superb, the people were good.

“I got offers to play for Selby, for Pickering, for Tadcaster, but I didn’t want the money. I was happy to play for nothing. It was my team. It was so upsetting to hear of it all.”

Jim Collis, who first played for Rowntree as a teenager in the York Minor League in 1951 and managed the club for 27 years, including during their most successful period, added: “I am very sad considering the amount of time I’ve spent down there over a lot of years. Everybody enjoyed it.”