Santos: history of a club celebrating its first decade with the L&C AFL

SANTOS AFC entered the league in 2008/09 and was in its 11th season with the L&C when the season was ended through Covid-19. Here, club secretary Ian Ward takes us through the club’s inception, as well as its highs and lows during that first decade.

In the late 1980s several friends created a team to enter some five and seven-a-side tournaments.

It was a successful period for the club winning several league titles and cup competitions.

For 2006-07 it was decided to create an open age team, joining the Rochdale Online League.and the name Santos continued for several more seasons in various seven-a-side leagues.

In their second season, the club applied to join the Lancashire & Cheshire League. The application was successful, so we started season 2008-09 in Division 2 whilst our reserve team entered in Division C. It was a tough baptism as the club struggled near the foot of the division for two seasons, before finishing in third place in our third season.

The first team entered Division 1 in season 2011-12 and for the next three seasons spent life at the bottom end of the division. The following season proved to be disastrous for the club. An early season exodus of players resulted in the reserve team squad stepping up several divisions to complete their season.

Unfortunately they were subjected to several heavy defeats ending the season on zero points. The reserve team were removed from their division as a result.

For season 2015-16, the club went through a restructure and it was decided to stay with just the one team.

There was a complete overhaul of the playing squad. A couple of long serving players returned to the club. After a request to drop down the leagues, the club were placed in Division A.

After a mixed season there was a move up to Division 3 where the club spent the next two campaigns, before another move up followed, after a league restructure.

It was back where we started life in Division 2 for 2018-19 season after another disappointing season for the club. Without a win until February, the club had a heartening finish, however it was too late to prevent finishing bottom.

Gaining a reprieve in the latest season, early results meant that a hopefully productive season was a possibility, unfortunately a mid season slump means that at the time the season was ended, Santos were third from bottom.

After several seasons playing home fixtures around the Middleton area, the club has now found its home in Royton – where the club originates from – at a new facility at The Oldham Academy North since 2014.

This is a nice facility with a 3G pitch. Royton Town from the Manchester League are also based at this facility as well.

Santos, has to compete with several local clubs playing in the Manchester Leagues, and also long established Lancashire & Cheshire clubs. The club has a good squad of players, the majority have now been together for the last five seasons and there is a good spirit between them.

Looking towards the future of the club, Santos formed a Junior section.

A soccer school for class Year 1 was formed. It has now progressed through the years, this season the club has reached U15s level.

There are also teams, all playing in the East Manchester Junior Football League, at U7s, U8s, U12s, U13s and U14s level and the Junior section are always on the look-out for new players.

If anybody is interested in getting involved with Santos, contact

L&C AFL AGM set for 4 June

Club secretaries in the league have been sent details about the annual general meeting which is set to take place on Thursday 4 June at 7pm. Secretaries should be aware that the deadline for extending invitiations to other club members, and to submit questions, is 1 June.

As detailed below, the league has been trialling the most appropriate way to conduct the meeting in these unprecedented times, and Zoom is the preferred option.

The AGM on the 4th June will take place by video conference at 7 PM. Please note we have brought the start time forward by an hour from our normal general meeting start time of 8PM. This is to avoid clashing with the weekly ‘clap for carers’. The meeting will be available to join from 6:45, and will start at 7PM prompt. Attached to this email are the agenda, previous minutes, rule changes and ballot paper.

We successfully tested Zoom with Manchester FA on their licenced version (avoids timing out after 40 minutes), so we’ll be using Zoom and MFA will issue the invitations. Further, more detailed joining instructions will be issued to secretaries.

The invitations to attend will be sent to club secretaries, if secretaries want invitations to go to other club members, let me know by 1st June. Every club is expected to do their utmost to attend.

If you would like to submit questions in advance of the meeting, again let me know by the 1st June. There will be a facility to ask questions on the night.

Attendees will be logged, achieving a virtual roll call. All voting items are on the ballot paper which is to be sent in to me by 9AM on the 8th June, by email by club secretaries. The votes will be verified by MFA and the results declared soon after.

Flixton Juniors First doing their bit for the NHS

The players of Lancashire & Cheshire AFL outfit Flixton Juniors First have contributed to the coronavirus outbreak by raising £280 for the NHS.

The open age team have responded admirably to the cancellation of the amateur football season by insisting that rather than returning money that is paid to the club for matchday and training costs, the fees are redirected to this worthy cause.

Flixton were eighth in Division B when the season was halted, and not out of relegation trouble. But the club had put together a four-game unbeaten run in the league to build a five-point cushion between them and the bottom two.

With two games in hand and a much superior goal difference to the sides below, Flixton were well placed to secure survival and had even taken unbeaten league leaders Parrswood Celtic to a penalty shootout in the Whitehead Cup.

However, once it became apparent that the season’s fixtures would not be fulfilled, Flixton’s players displayed their compassion and care for their health service by generously giving their subs to the NHS.

Jordan Casey is the Assistant Manager of Flixton, and also plays for the club; it’s very much a family affair, as the club is managed by his Dad, Shay.

The 28-year-old explained how the club and its players rallied to support the health service.

He said: “We pay a £35 a month standing order which all of the players pay. That covers all our training, all matchdays, referee costs, and everything that comes in that. The lads get training gear, tracksuit tops. Everybody is happy to pay this each month.

“Obviously when coronavirus hit, the league was cancelled about halfway through March, so we thought as a gesture of goodwill to our lads, we’d offer about £20 back, to say we’ve had £15 of training and matches so far, so we thought it’d be a nice bit of goodwill to give them all £20 back.

“One of the lads actually came back straight away and said could we donate his £20 to charity, which we thought was a great idea. So we put a message out to the other lads, and the others said the same, we’ll give it to charity. We agreed on the NHS and it ended up as a £280 donation.”

There’s clearly a deep spirit within the Flixton ranks; although the team have been playing for the club for just two seasons, the players have been together for much longer. The move was also part of the vision of Shay and Jordan to bring players through from junior, right the way to open age football.

Jordan explained: “I’ve been playing open age football for over 10 years now. We started with a local team that we moved straight into from junior football. At the age of 16, there was a group of our u-16 team – about 14 of us – wanted to go open age rather than youth team football. We started as kids in an adult league and it’s something me and my Dad looked to carry on. My brother has just turned 21 and when all his mates turned 16, we took them into open age.

“They played for the team we were playing for at the time, and about four years ago, we moved to Flixton.

“The team we were at didn’t have any junior team, it was a standalone, open age team. We moved to Flixton where a few of the lads, including my younger brother, played there as juniors. It was good for him and my Dad to give back, as an open age team.

“We originally started off on our own as a standalone group of lads just wanting to play football and get into a league and have a bit of a laugh together.

“The club has been great. They have around 28 teams including juniors and women’s team. There are other plans that when the other lads get to 16, they can look at training with open age team or looking at a reserve team, and there are big hopes with the club that we can build it the same way I did 10 years ago.”

And how are the players responding to the challenges of lockdown? Doing their best to remain connected with fellow teammates but, like much of the amateur football community, the absence of games is being felt.

Jordan added: “We have a Whatsapp group with all the lads, trying to keep fit, posting our runs in there, but ultimately we’re just missing football.”

Flixton though, can be proud of its players and their contribution to the NHS in response to the crisis.

Signol ready to celebrate 40 years

SIGNOL FC is one of Stockport’s top junior and open age clubs and is looking forward to celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2021.

The club is named after its founder Anne Signol, who is a very prominent member of the local community and is known as the Founder and Head Physiotherapist (MACP, MCSP, HCPC, FMHA, MBRAC, KHT) at The Signol Centre – one of the longest established physiotherapy and acupuncture practices in the Stockport area.

Anne has always played an active role in the community and also owns The Signol Community Centre, which has been part of the Romiley community for many years; the building has a lot of history and dates back to 1820.


Anne has always wanted the centre to play an active role within Romiley, and it’s used for many different classes from Art to Zumba. 

In her own words Ann describes how Signol football Club was initially started:

“I was a physiotherapist at Stockport Infirmary treating asthmatic children. At the time the procedure was for the children to be treated once a week to aid their breathing and improve the lung capacity.

“Once a week didn’t seem enough, so as I owned the Signol centre gym in Romiley, I got them to go to the gym for half an hour each evening to practice the exercises I had given them including using various equipment to increase their muscle strength and coordination.

“On Saturday they had to show me what they had done so that I could note their progress, one hot June the boys were fed up as the girls were dancing and doing gymnastics so I took them to the park with a football for a kickabout and that was it John Wyatt whose mother Val worked with me said he would train the boys and they could play friendlies.

“The children chose the name Signol Athletic and the team was born in 1980. The problem was we had no equipment.  I put a cardboard box in the hall and patients whose children had grown out of their boots donated them, so we had boots.

“A patient of mine manufactured track suits for the league football teams in Pear Tree mill and he said he would donate track suits for the team, as I was working with Malcolm Allison at Manchester City on a project of prevention of injuries and improvement of performance he put a Manchester City down the sleeves, we felt very smart.

“In 1981 Brian Malpas took over the team and in a short while he turned it from a team into Signol Athletic Junior Football Club.

“He developed it into a very successful club with the aid of managers Stuart Kelly, John Brereton, Vic Womack, Tony Whiteside, Phil Norbury, Allan Mellor and his right-hand man Liam Gately.

“In 1990 they won the league title in the Stockport Metro League and in 1990 they also went to Amsterdam on a trip with 30 footballers and eight adults taking part coming back with a winner’s trophy. The team had been to Amsterdam several years before.

“To fund the trips, several events took place, such  five-a-side competitions and I raised a lot of money putting on Variety Shows at the Romiley Forum using the children and various sponsored swims.

“Every year in the summer we took the boys for a week’s holiday to the caravan park in Rhyl and together with Jeff Ryan, Marple’s football coach, they organised everything.

“We hired John Evans, a football coach from Wrexham, to train the boys every morning at the Rhyl Sports Centre, and in the afternoons they played five-a-side with a grand final on Friday afternoon. 

“For several years we held Sportsmen’s dinners at Quaffers, Bredbury with Guest Speakers Tommy Docherty, Bill Foulkes, Paddy Crerand, Denis Law and comedian Ivor Davies .

“Brian Malpas was chairman from 1981 to 1998 and then Dave Parsonage took over and he and his team have done a marvellous job.


“I can’t thank them enough I am so proud of you all, it’s an amazing achievement and to see Danny Bowden who joined the club at four managing the open age team and the boys who are now working Stockport Schools teaching football skills to the pupils – it’s very special to me and I thank you all.   “Here’s to a party in 2021 when Signol Athletic will be 40!“

Signol official Gill Bowden takes over the Signol story: “The club has grown considerably from those early days described by Anne, now providing teams from under 7s to open age. The club allows boys and girls in the area to play football and be coached in a caring, safe and respectful environment, whatever their ability, gender or race.”

“In 2009 the club only provided for teams up to Under 16s and at that point Gordon Bowden, then the manager of the Under 16s team spoke to the club and requested that the team be able to enter into the Stockport Metro Under 17/18’s league for the 2010/11 Season. The following year Gordon requested that he take the team to play in an Open Age League, the club agreed that an open age team could be formed if the team was run separately to the junior club.

“Gordon had run the team for the prior 11 years and his son Daniel had played for Signol since he was four years old. 


“Daniel was refereeing in the Lancashire and Cheshire League and Gordon usually watched his games, he was impressed with the standard of teams and organisation of the League and as he had played in the league many years before he approached the League in 2011 with a request to enter his team.  “The Lancashire and Cheshire League accepted the team and placed them in division three and after six years the team reached the Premier Division, with a reserve team in Division A and a third team in Division B run by Daniel Bowden who at this point had stopped refereeing due to injury. 

“Unfortunately, the Premiership seemed a step too far and after just one season the first team folded, the remaining two teams continued for a further year in their respective divisions and then went their separate ways.

“Daniel’s team continued and some of the original first team players returned, and Signol Old Boys was created run by both Daniel and Gordon with the League placing them in Division One for season 2019-20.

“Signol Athletic were placed in Division Three where they have enjoyed a great season until the lockdown.

“They have lost just one league game and are well clear in second place in the table behind Chadderton Cott and I will be delighted if they secure promotion to keep up the proud tradition of our club.

 “Anne Signol is a wonderful lady who never asks for any thanks. The football club is a very small part of what she has provided to the community over the years, she has raised funds for a great many children’s charities by writing books and putting on Pantomime performances. 

“Thank you for this legacy, Anne, from everyone you have touched over the years.”


L&C AGM to go ahead via video conference

The L&C has confirmed that the pre-planned AGM will still go ahead, but via video link. This latest update also contains important information about the future of cup competitions for 2019/20, as well as important information when planning training or friendlies.

  1. The 2020 AGM was already planned for 4th June, and with uncertainty as to when we will be able to hold any conventional meetings, we will hold the event over video conference.
  2. From a list of potential software to deliver this we have two new shortlisted possibilities : Zoom and Microsoft Teams. It would obviously make sense to use the one which more clubs are familiar with. Could you let me know which you have experienced, if either? Both require software to be downloaded. Another possible solution is the FA Webex system.
  3. The deadline we set for a decision on whether we play the season 19/20 cups to conclusion was set at 31st May for two reasons – teams will need time to prepare, and we would not want to impact on the main family holiday season. Also we think that if any team feel unable to play (when it is deemed safe by government and FA) we would scrap that cup for all. We will defer the decision until the end of this month as we are no clearer now than in March.
  4. Any training or plans for friendlies must be provisional pending FA clearance.
  5. Information has been issued for possible funding streams available – take advantage whilst they are available.

Clubs may qualify for “Small Business Grant”

It has come to our attention that football clubs may be eligible for a water payment holiday or “small business grant.”

If you pay business rates and at the beginning of March were claiming Small Business Rates Relief,  you can apply for a “Small Business Grant” of £10,000.  This is non-refundable and the application is a very simple process. You will need your business rates reference and go on to your local authority website, enter this reference number and the club’s bank details. The Grant is then paid direct.

If your club pays water bills, an application can be made by filling in a short form on the supplier’s website.

Any queries please contact Treasurer Phil Faulkner. His direct mobile is 07957 883165, and email is

Spurley Hey awarded ‘game-changing’ grant

SPURLEY Hey FC have been proud and supportive members of the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL since they joined in 2001 and have fielded up to three open age teams with varying degrees of success over the years.

They are also a very successful junior club and one of their long-term aims has been to develop their own facility at Warth Meadow to a much higher standard.

Their secretary Dave Jameson, who is a Past President of the L&C has a great announcement to make following the successful application for a grant from the Football Foundation.

Dave said: “We are delighted to share the news that Spurley Hey FC have secured a total grant of £20,160 from the Football Foundation for a long-term maintenance programme to improve the pitch facilities at Warth Meadow.

“To secure this investment the club has also committed a total of £10,000 over a ten-year period toward the project.

”This will mean that over the next ten years the club will invest an average spend of £3,000 per year on much-needed pitch improvements at the home of Spurley Hey,”

Club Chairman Lee Preston described the grant as a ‘game-changer’: “The club would like to thank the Football Foundation for its investment into the Warth Meadow investment project, which will breathe a new lease of life into the facility.

“It’s a real reward for the dedicated club volunteers who put in countless hours trying to improve the pitches which at times can be a thankless task.

“This will also help provide a significant improvement to the pitch quality which I know will bring a huge sigh of relief to our teams and coaches who play at Warth Meadow.

“This season’s weather has been one of the worst for many years and for much of the season Warth Meadow has been unplayable, causing a huge frustration for players, parents and coached alike.

“This grant is a real game-changer for the club and sets us on the way to deliver the huge ambitions we have to turn Warth Meadow into a vibrant community football facility for the residents of Stockport. “I would also like to thank the club’s amazing volunteers who have stayed with us through this difficult season and with this investment we can look forward to a brighter future for the club.”

Planning for 2020/21 season underway

With the 2019/2020 season cancelled, the L&C has turned its attention to the 2020/2021 football season and have set out the following guidance for all club secretaries.

We are now ready to receive information from you on your intentions for your club. Anyone leaving should have informed us by 31st March, so if you have not already please let us know now.  If any first teams leave us it is likely to be from the premier division, this will create an uplift throughout all divisions to fill the gaps above.

If the number of teams you wish to run is different to 19-20, let us know.

With the possibility of teams leaving, and four new clubs joining us, it is inevitable there will be restructuring of the divisions, which has become a yearly event.

If you have a request for a particular division, please let us know. We do our best to accommodate requests, however with the general request being downward, it is not always possible to.

L&C outline financial assistance available to clubs

The league management committee is now able, following detailed consideration, to issue further information on the financial assistance we can offer to 2019-20 member clubs. In acknowledgement of clubs’ potential financial difficulties, the Committee have been looking at the best ways to help, which are as fair as possible for all clubs/teams, and are now able to announce the following :-

  • League Fees – to be carried over from Season 19/20 to Season 20/21 – a saving to every club of at least £80, more to those with multi-teams.
  • Cup Fees – if the cup competitions for Season 19/20 complete then no action. If the competitions cannot be  completed, then the cup entry fees will also be rolled over to Season 20/21 with a saving of £28 per team.
  • New clubs entering the League for the first time will be charged all fees as normal.
  • Invoices will be issued at the beginning of August as usual and the appropriate credits as  above will be shown. These will also include any outstanding amounts carried over from Season 19/20 in respect of unpaid fines, and the second half of registrations for Season 19/20. However we are pleased to announce these registrations will be at a one-off discounted rate of £2 per player. 
  • Invoices will be asked to be paid by Sept 30th, but any club with issues meeting this date should contact the treasurer direct at the appropriate time.
  • Of course should any club prefer to pay their registrations in advance of August 2020, then please let the treasurer know and an invoice can be issued.

We trust that everyone will be able to see that the League, being a not-for-profit organisation has made a substantial effort to provide assistance. The savings to clubs detailed above will result in a contribution from the League of approximately £7,500.

We hope that you and your families are keeping well, in what is a very difficult time for everyone.

If there are any queries, please contact Philip Faulkner

Amateur football participation: L&C members taking proactive approach

It almost seems a different world away now, but as recently as February, participation numbers in the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL were causing real concern.

The amateur football league, which has been a vital part of the various communities in the region for more than 110 years, has suffered from declining numbers that have resulted in the reduction in number of leagues and in the 2019/20 season, seven teams have been lost – victims of declining participation.

The coronavirus outbreak has put paid to the league season, which has been declared null and void; wiggle room has been left for the cup competitions to reach a conclusion, though that is of course subject to change.

Over the course of a matter of weeks, the narrative has changed; football has rightly taken a back seat to the much more fundamentally important issue of health.

But the L&C is more than just football; the league provides a sense of community, togetherness and belonging – all of which will be important when amateur football is able to resume.

When that happens, the participation question will remain an important one to answer for the future of competition, but football clubs in the league are working hard to find solutions to the falling numbers.

The current league structure consists of seven divisions – Premier Division down to Third Division, followed by Divisions A, B and C.

As recently as 2013, there were 10 divisions but slowly, these have fallen away; that season, Division F was dissolved, followed by Division E three years later, and finally Division D in 2018.

The falling numbers are highlighted by the fall in the number of teams over the past eight years.

In 2012, there were 117 sides competing in the L&C. Five years on, that number was 90 and now, there are 81.

The voided season has seen seven teams unfortunately drop out – Old Ashtonians, Unicorn, Didsbury, Swinton, and Barr Hill have all folded, whilst Chorltonians and Spurley Hey have each lost a team as the battle for player numbers became too much.

It is undoubtedly a pattern that will cause concern, but the league’s remaining clubs remain defiant, and are responding proactively in order to avoid a similar fate to those teams that have gone before them.

Networking and the power of youth

Milton currently run two teams; half a decade ago, this was three, but they too have fallen victim to the changes in grassroots football participation.


The club’s secretary, Sam Johnson, has highlighted change in work and life circumstances as key drivers in changing player participation; the 28-year-old said the cohort of players who he has played with have grown up together and provided consistent numbers, but are at the stage where life understandably changes and so do commitments.

He said: “I’m 28 now so you’re getting to the stage where people are getting married, have other commitments, are having children, have weddings. This is combined with lower participation in younger children, late teens, people going to university and not getting into playing football.”

But Milton are working hard as a committee to find solutions to these numbers; a common theme has been tapping into youth set-ups, and partnering with these.

The hope is that, by affiliating with under-18s and junior clubs, Milton can encourage a cohort who have played together for years to come through the ranks at the same time, as playing with friends is a vital pull in the grassroots game.

All those who play key roles in helping the club function understand the power of networking too, reaching out to friends, work colleagues, friends of family, to offer opportunities.