L & C Secretary to step down

The new L & C season is almost upon us, and there will be a significant difference from the 2021/22 season, as League Secretary Brian Davies has retired from the role he’s served with distinction for 14 years.

Brian took up the position in time for the start of the 2008/09 season, replacing John Howard. His tenure in one of the most all-encompassing jobs on the L & C Committee has resulted in some of the most revolutionary changes in the league and its communications with our clubs.

During this time, Brian led the introduction of more streamlined administration of league functions, providing a greater emphasis on the use of technology, making the administrative tasks of club secretaries easier than had previously been possible.

Brian was well placed to oversee this change given his vast experience of football administration; having initially started playing for Stoconions in the 1970s, Brian made the move to Chorltonians in 1983 and in that time, he held several positions at the club, where he was Chairman, giving a solid grounding of all matters relating to league administration.

It’s fair to say that his period as League Secretary has thrown up some of the most unprecedented challenges seen in the league’s history. The Covid pandemic threw up significant difficulties in ensuring the league continued, along with communication, and games were able to be fulfilled in a safe environment. Brian also used this opportunity to champion the use of remote meetings which again resulted in greater and more streamlined communication.

At a time where the threats to amateur football participation have never been more pronounced, with the advent of more TV games and other work commitments, under Brian’s tenure, the league has gone from strength to strength, with eight divisions and he leaves his role as Secretary with the L & C in great shape.

The diligence with which Brian has undertaken his role is no surprise considering his long affiliation with the beautiful game. As well as his amateur playing and administrative responsibilities, he continued to play 6-a-side up until his mid-60s, surpassing an initial ambition to play to the age of 60.

As a Level 2-qualified FA Coach, Brian has been at the forefront of promoting women’s football, having previously managed Stockport county ladies under 14s team, taking them all the way up to open age and the Reserve team. His dedication to this role will surprise nobody who has dealt with him as League Secretary. Not only did he coach that team, he also organised referees for the game, ran the line when called upon, washed kits, hired and drove the minibus to games, and put the nets up – as well as the primary function of coaching the team, which yielded league and cup glory.

Although we are sad to see Brian step down, we are eternally grateful for all his achievements in his 14 years as League Secretary and are pleased to announce he will be staying on the Committee, assisting the new Secretary who, as coincidence would have it, is Stephen Howard, son of John, who Brian succeeded in the role.

For a transition period, Brian will take up the role of Assistant Secretary, providing valuable experience as the L & C moves forward into the new season.

We wish Brian all the best for the future!

Presentation Dinner at Edgeley Park marks end of L & C season

The curtain came down on another compelling L & C season with the Presentation Dinner held at the home of National League Champions Stockport County.

It was a fitting conclusion to the league’s 113th season and was a welcome return of the presentation evening after the covid-enforced absence.

There were nearly 200 people in attendance at Edgeley Park, where the league’s successful teams received their trophies and medals to celebrate their outstanding achievements throughout the season in league and cup competition.

Entertainment came in the form of guest speaker Jon ‘The Beast’ Parkin, who provided a colourful glimpse from his career which saw him score 164 goals including 45 in 199 appearances at Championship level for Hull, Stoke, Preston and Cardiff.

The evening was coolly led by MC John Melia with some excellent refreshments followed by a welcome to clubs, players and distinguished guests by league chairman Mike Yates. This was followed with a toast to the L & C by LAL chairman Simon Lord and an outline of the season from the League President Tim Roebuck (Abacus Media FC).

Special awards went to Tameside’s Peter Darby for Referee of the Year, Phil Savill of Bury Ams who was awarded Secretary of the Year, Abacus Media won the Fair Play award, and finally an award for retiring L & C Secretary Brian Davies for his 14 years of stellar service in the role.

Jon Parkin was next up with his enjoyable entertainment and the evening was concluded with the presentation of the trophies to the successful teams beginning with the cup winners who had already received their trophies and medals at the finals.

The league winners were:

Premier Division: De La Salle Reds, runners-up Moston Brook

Division One: Chadderton Cott, runners up Shaw Athletic

Division Two: Irlam Tiger Rangers, runners up Hattersley

Division Three: Village Manchester, runners up Chadderton Park,

Division A: Kartel Sports, runners-up North Walkden reserves,

Division B: Aldermere reserves, runners-up Heaton Mersey,

Division C: Mellor reserves, runners-up Dukinfield Athletic,

Division D: Whalley Range A, runners-up Bury Ams A.

The final trophy was the SE Woollam Trophy for the club with the top points total from their top two teams and it went to Irlam Tigers.

L & C review of 2021 and plans for 2022

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.

L & C Diversity and Inclusion meeting rearranged

The new date for the Diversity and Inclusion meeting has been moved to Monday 6th December at 7pm, and will be held at South West Manchester Cricket Club, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 0SG.

It was originally scheduled for Monday 15th November but due to unavailability of some, it has been moved to the December date to accommodate key personnel.

All are welcome to attend. Please let Rob Brown, or Brian Davies know if you are attending. The notes from the first meeting have been sent to all clubs and committee via email and the agenda for December’s meeting is below.  

  • Introductions
  • Diversity and inclusion in football
  • Role of this group
  • How to influence our members
  • Future meetings and communication
  • AOB

Referee training opportunities

The League committee and specifically Stephen Howard is doing his utmost to find referees to cover our games. Unfortunately many of you will have experienced having to supply a stand in referee as there are around 15 short every week.

This, unfortunately, is the national trend that is prevalent in many areas of grassroots football.

To help with allocating the remaining referees where they are needed most, if any clubs have someone they can turn to, please let Stephen know, and also who they are. Then he knows which matches are priority to cover.

There have been few respondents to the request for anyone to train as a referee, so we will not be able to run a specific league course, but we are obtaining County FA dates, and the offer of 50% refund still stands on completion of six L & C matches.

Finally, please refrain and ask all your players to refrain from criticism of referees, we need to retain what we have, otherwise the situation is going to get worse.

In memory of John Howard

It is with tremendous sadness that the L & C announce the death of our former League Secretary John Howard at the age of 85.

John’s contribution to the league, its reputation and what it has become today cannot be measured and is “unlikely to ever be surpassed.” The outpouring of love and affection since news of his passing confirms as much, with messages from committee members, football clubs, the Lancashire Amateur League (LAL) and Manchester FA emphasising the regard he was held in.

He has been described as “influential,” “dedicated,” “a gentleman,” “mentor,” “a special man,” a man for whom respect came naturally, from people who enjoyed his company, passion and love for the game and the advancement of the L & C and grassroots football.

His knowledge of our league was unrivalled and he penned the most significant piece of history that exists about the L & C – a comprehensive history of our first 100 years.

It is typical of John’s nature that, in more than 250 pages, he only recounts his own time in the L & C in less than a page, not even detailing his time as League Secretary, instead thanking his devoted wife Doreen, “who has shown great patience in accepting that football was part of our life together and I would not have been able to complete this book without her encouragement,” and also preferring to focus on his contemporaries and their contributions

That says a great deal about the man, considering the L & C is a labour of love. His involvement in the league began in 1953 when he began playing for the Manchester Town Clerks and City Treasurers (Mantact) Football Club. During his time with the club as a player and administrator, Mantact enjoyed success by winning the 3rd Division, Division E, and Reserve B Division, as well as the Wray Cup.

John’s enduring passion for the league is remembered by his son Stephen, the L & C Referees Appointment Secretary, whose “first real memories” of football were his dad’s involvement in managing Mantact and being part of the L & C.

Stephen said: “Early memories were at Hough End where he organised everything, picking up players on the way to the game involving long detours, washing the kit, getting the oranges and cutting them into quarters for half-time, team talks and shouting from the touchline.

“He organised training at various venues and he also enjoyed a drink after training. To be honest, growing up for me, it was his passion.”

John progressed all the way through Mantact’s administration, onto refereeing, time as the Discipline Secretary, and membership of the League Management Committee.

Mantact’s resignation from the league meant a stint as Results Secretary, a time which Stephen fondly recalls involved “an answering machine that never stopped on Saturday evening with all clubs ringing in results, and he would leave a message with all the results on, so Sunday night the phone again would never stop, and my job was to take all the results to the post office to ensure they got to the newspapers on time.” It paints an accurate picture of a man who “lived for the league,” as his son eloquently described it.

In later years, John enjoyed a three-year spell as League Secretary, succeeded by current incumbent, Brian Davies. Brian is unequivocal about his predecessor’s influence, both on a personal and professional level, a man described as “the life and soul” of the L & C.

Brian said: “My first interaction with John was going to discipline meetings because the club I was with had discipline problems at the time so I used to have to go to John Howard. He was feared for his power as a disciplinarian but was always very fair and everybody came out of those meetings with a massive amount of respect. Everything was accepted because he was so good at it.

“The influence he had couldn’t be measured. John was a dedicated man of integrity and was the life and soul of the L & C for so long.”

During his time as Secretary, he pushed for greater automation and communication with the clubs. He was a major reason for the Full Time system of recording results, and the continuous lines of dialogue in the weekly updates.

Fiercely protective of grassroots football, John was a great advocate of the L & C vs LAL Interleague Trophy, and maintaining the relationship between the two leagues, along with the ongoing annual games, which have now reached 100 years. The two leagues have always been friendly and helped each other where possible. It is a mark of John’s influence here that the Interleague trophy is named after him, leaving a legacy that he can be proud of.

Peter Duffy of the LAL, described John as “iconic” with “limitless knowledge.”

He said: “On behalf of the LAL, please pass on my condolences to all of John’s family and friends.”

Colind Bridgford, Manchester FA CEO, added: “My thoughts and all at Manchester FA are with his friends and family, personally and within football.”

John’s loyalty to the league meant he not only safeguarded its traditions, but he also embraced change and was a representative for the league on a body that is committed to improving equality and diversity. Even during the Covid pandemic, he was looking to the future, keen to continue developing grassroots football and was responsible for the collation and publication of L &C match sheets as recently as the end of the 2020/21 season.

That is an association with the league of 68 years. It is why messages have arrived in their droves from football clubs far and wide, it is why Fixtures Secretary Malc Kershaw spoke of his “admiration for the man,” and the reason Geoff Garnett describes knowing John as “a pleasure.” It is why Keith Marsden, Registrations Secretary spoke of a “special man” that nobody had a negative word about, and why the likes of Spurley Hey, Stretford Paddock, Govan Athletic, and Chorltonians to name a few paid tribute by speaking warmly about a man who put so much time into the league and amateur football, who will be “a real loss,” who will be greatly missed, was pleasant, and was respected in ways that cannot be adequately put into words, as Dave Jameson of Spurley Hey said.

It is an incredible legacy to leave and whilst we will miss our dear friend immeasurably, we are eternally grateful for his contribution and his indelible mark on the L & C will always be remembered.

John passed away peacefully at Bury Hospice, surrounded by his loved ones and will be deeply missed by his wife Doreen, children Stephen and Helen, his five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

L & C Diversity Inclusion Group

The L & C Diversity and Inclusion Committee member Rob Brown would like clubs to nominate representatives to take part in an open discussion about inclusivity and diversity. It is felt the key people are the football managers and assistants who have the most influence on the playing squads and changing room environment, however all nominees are welcome.

The diversity group’s brief would be to :

1.            Set up the introductory meeting in April – date to be confirmed

2.            The membership should include 5 member clubs and 3 L & C committee members

3.            We would meet 3 times a year or on an adhoc basis

4.            The group will consider the most high profile issues in accordance with diversity and inclusion for grass roots football

5.            Explore issues that would help our league to be as inclusive as possible and make suggestions to the L & C committee as to how it can develop or make           changes to be as inclusive as possible.

6.            The group would also be a sounding board for the league and be prepared to consider issues as they arise and advise accordingly.

7.            The group would be prepared to accept and take part in development  and be as knowledgeable on current issues as possible.

If you have already expressed an interest, please confirm to Rob, as several months have passed since we first started communicating about this matter.

Let the action begin

AFTER months for frustration and lack of playing action there was plenty of hard work done by the L & C management committee, given great support by clubs, to prepare for an exciting new programme once the lockdown on grassroots soccer was lifted.

The league designed a divisional cup competition to finish the season giving all of the 90-plus teams the chance to play at least five games followed by quarter-finals for the top two teams in each group followed by semi-finals and finals for the Rhodes Cup, Wray Cup, Whitehead Cup and Hellawell Shield.

The competition will begin on April 10 and will be looking to avoid midweek matches.

All clubs were also given the chance to take part in a full programme of friendly matches by the league on April 3 to get them back into action and be aware of Covid restrictions and administrative requirements for the upcoming cup competitions.

Some clubs have had to seek out new grounds to play on due to Covid problems with their existing facilities and the league are delighted with some of the temporary venues they have been able to secure.

L & C Referees Secretary Stephen Howard has been busy also and he is pleased to announce that he has a surplus of officials for all of the upcoming games.

The draw for the cups sees teams from the Premier and Division One in four groups of six teams each aiming to reach the final of the Rhodes Cup at Hyde United at the end of May.

The draw gives some of the ambitious teams in division one the chance to show their talent against Premier division teams.

One group sees Rhodes Cup holders Salford Vics and 100 per cent Premier division leaders Mellor lined up with South Manchester and Urmston Town.

Division One leaders Moston Brook will enjoy a local derby with high-flying Premier side AFC Oldham as well as tough games with Lancashire Amateur Cup finalists Milton, Hadfield Athletic and De la Salle.

Rochdalians are another L & C powerhouse and among their opponents are Dom Doyle, Newton, Bury Ams and Irlam Tiger.

The fourth group has recent Rhodes Cup winners High Lane in a tough group containing ambitious new boys Stretford Paddock, Signol OB, North Walkden, Abacus Media and Manchester Polonia.

Teams from Division Two and Three are competing for the Wray Cup and in one of the groups there will be an exciting local derby as division two leaders Old Stretfordians take on Aldermere.

The Whitehead Cup has teams from Divisions A and B in action with new team Kartel taking on Salford Storm and Hillgate in their fixtures.

Finally the Hellawell Shield has teams from Divisions C and D in action with one of the groups just having five clubs, including new boys Greater Manchester FC who will take on Stoconians fourths, FC Bury, Stlay Lions and Didsbury thirds.

The group includes Division C leaders AFC Stockport Warriors and Division D top team Irlam Tigers A.
So plenty of thrills and spills to look forward to in a very exciting end to the truncated season.

New plan in place to finish the season

NOW that the Government has laid down its road map grass roots football has been able to plan the conclusion to another very disrupted season caused by Covid 19.

The Lancashire & Cheshire League management committee has been doing plenty of work in looking at various options and decided to void the current league season in their eight divisions mainly due to the differences in fixtures completed by the teams.

The plan now is to run the four league cup competitions, originally in a divisional format, to give all of the teams the chance to play at least five fixtures followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and cup finals.

The Rhodes Cup, currently held by Salford Victoria, will be competed for by teams in the Premier and Division One in four groups of six teams, playing each other once with the top two teams in each group progressing to quarter finals.

The Wray Cup, currently held by Radclyffe FC, will feature teams in Division Two and Three in the same format and the Whitehead Cup, held by Chadderton Cott is for teams in Division A and B.

Finally the Hellawell Shield, held by Irlam Tigers Rangers, will see teams from Division C and D in competition.

The draw will soon be made and fixtures secretary Malc Kershaw will then plan the schedule which will begin on April 10 with quarter-finals planned for May 15.

The league will provide linesmen for the quarter finals and as usual the semi-finals and finals will be on neutral grounds with officials provided by the league.

Malc Kershaw said: “We will look for the group matches to be played on Saturdays, avoiding midweek games where possible and there will be some adjustments where teams share pitches.

“Referees secretary Stephen Howard is confident that he has enough officials to cover the busy programme and hopefully we will not be affected by bad weather and more Covid restrictions as we look to provide an exciting and competitive end to another very difficult and frustrating season.”

The clubs will all be given detailed information of the draw, rules etc for the planned programme as soon as possible giving them the opportunity to play some friendly games in preparation for the cup competitions.

Spurley Hey suffer “devastating” pitch damage

Spurley Hey FC, one of the most respected and successful football clubs in the Greater Manchester area, have suffered ‘devastating’ damage to their playing surfaces.

The club, founded in 1968, are a vital part of their community, and provide leisure activity in the form of 18 teams made up of two adult teams – part of the L & C AFL, two girls teams, and 14 boys teams throughout different age groups.

Yet the action of mindless individuals have jeopardised the playing surfaces, caused by a quad bike and small motocross bike.

Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of damage, according to Spurley Hey President, Dave Jameson, who said: “Over the years, we have suffered a lot of damage by bikers to our pitches and we recently had fly tippers blocking the approach to the ground.

“We have spent a lot of money putting up barriers around the site and this has limited the damage.

“We are currently in receipt of an FA Improvement Grant this season and with the aid of this grant and from club funds, we have spent in the region of £10,000 in an attempt to improve the playing surfaces.

“So it was devastating to see extensive damage done to the playing surfaces by people driving to our ground and loading bikes and quad bikes over the barriers to drive on the pitches.

“The damage was caused by two children – one on a quad bike and the other on a small motocross bike – and they were accompanied and helped by four adults.”

One of Spurley’s managers caught the perpetrators of this vandalism in the act but was “met with verbal abuse.” The club have sought out assistance from the Police, who are now dealing with the matter.

Dave said it is disappointing for all those who pour their heart and soul into their local community facilities, and he urged other facilities in the area to keep a watchful eye out to avoid similar issues.

“I know that other clubs in the league and various sports clubs in the area have been subject to damage to their facilities and it is very disappointing to see the hard work of so many volunteers treated in this thoughtless manner.

“I would advise all sports facilities to keep a constant check on their grounds to avoid the devastation and disappointment we have suffered.”

Mike Yates, Chairman of the L & C AFL, added: “Spurley Hey are a long-established club in our league and have a really hard-working committee of volunteers who give up their spare time to provide football for the local community.

“What is particularly alarming with this vandalism is that parents were helping the children with their bikes.

“Let’s hope they are caught and suitable financial penalties are administered as a deterrent, and the funds are given to Spurley Hey for repair work.”