AMATEUR grassroots sport has suffered greatly for the best part of two years with the effects of the Covid pandemic.
The L & C, the largest Saturday afternoon amateur football league in the region, has endured numerous problems during this time, putting a great strain on league and club officials who have put in fantastic efforts to keep the game they love in action.
The 2020-21 season saw the league fixtures wiped out but some lively and well supported cup competitions towards the end of the season brought the league and clubs back into vibrant life and allowed us to enjoy some much-needed entertainment at a time of real uncertainty, when many were unsure when or indeed if action would resume.
Despite this uncertainty, the league’s popularity has continued and during pre-season, we had a number of applications for membership to the league. Remarkably, it means that our members have swelled to more than 90 – even more teams than we had just prior to the start of the pandemic.
Covid has caused games to be postponed – as is being keenly felt at professional level – due to players having to isolate, and the poor weather conditions have also posed acute challenges for the league committee and club officials.
In the last league General Meeting, Mike Yates, Chairman of the L & C, reviewed the season to date. It included a heartfelt tribute to former League Secretary John Howard, who passed away earlier this year, whilst also explaining the issues of participation that the L & C have had to contend with.
He said: “We start with sad news as our long serving committee member John Howard has recently passed away.
“We send our condolences to his son and our referees secretary Steven Howard and all the Howard family and friends at this sad time
“The league committee are shocked at the number of teams that have folded since the last GM in August, from 101 we are now down to 91.
“The committee have put this down to a lot of factors; delayed wedding and stag parties, delayed family visits, ongoing covid cases, holidays, changing work patterns, preferring to watch professional football and then just getting out of the habit of playing Saturday afternoon football.
“Our fixture secretary Malcolm Kershaw has been working extra hard to accommodate changes to planned fixtures and we appreciate it isn’t the secretaries and managers who are causing the postponements, it is the players, due to a combination of the above reasons, who are not available.”
Despite the challenges, Mike confirmed the league will continue to be flexible to ensure fixtures are fulfilled during what we expect will be a challenging second half of the season.
He added: “Fining and punishing the clubs is not the answer as they are not the cause. We are determined to finish the season so will continue our flexible approach to the issues you are all facing, so do flag up any potential issues you may have as soon as possible.”
There well over 2.500 players registered in the league and at the midpoint of the season it is pleasing to see that most of the clubs have played at least half of the league fixtures and the main aim will be to finish the league season.
There will be a window to play the league’s cup competitions in the New Year and also see our clubs still involved in county cup competitions get through their busy schedules.
At the end of the season, the League’s Presentation Dinner at Stockport County in May will take place to give out all of the trophies for league and cup competitions.
Defending their cup trophies will be Rhodes Cup holders Mellor, Wray Cup champions Signol Athletic, Whitehead Cup holders Irlam Tigers, and Radclyffe, who triumphed in the Hellawell Shield.
Steven Howard has been working hard to recruit new referees and hopefully will be able to see the majority of games covered until the end of the season and he is also deserving of congratulation for the time and effort he has given to his role from all involved in the league along with other hard-working committee members dedicated to helping proper grassroots football.