End of the road for Saturday football

3:16pm Friday 23rd May 2014

By Steve Carley

MORE than a century of Saturday amateur football in Worcester has come to an end.

The McDonald's Worcester and District League Saturday Division One will not be running next season for the first time since 1893 after five of the nine teams dropped out.

Only Powick, Foregate, Malvern Vale and the University of Worcester wanted to continue for 2014-15 with WCT Raiders, Arrow 2000, VBL Sports, Malvern Town Reserves and Malvern Hills all withdrawing.

Reasons cited for the demise include a lack of player commitment, nobody to run teams, too much junior football and the rise in pitch hire - Worcester City Council is increasing costs by 45 per cent over the next two years.

Officials also believe the prolonged bad weather at the beginning of the year had a detrimental effect.

Coming at the same time as the Kidderminster League's decision to stop its 120-year-old Saturday division due to a lack of teams, it leaves Worcestershire without any senior Saturday football outside of the non-league pyramid.

A proposed county league to accommodate local teams was shelved due to low interest but the Worcestershire FA remain keen to provide Saturday football in some form.

Worcester League secretary Tim Phillips said: "We are sad to see the demise of Saturday football in the league. We think there are a number of reasons for the decline in the last few years.

"The commitment from some players is very poor regarding their availability and ability to pay match-fees.

"It's also difficult to get people to runs teams with one-man bands getting fed up.

"One of the final nails in the coffin was the two months we had without any football due to the wet weather. Players went away and did other things and didn't want to come back when we started again in March."

Kidderminster League secretary Ernie Pyke added: "It’s been coming for a while, the number of teams playing on a Saturday has steadily decreased.

“Attitudes have changed, young people today have a lot of other distractions to consider."

VBL Sports are dropping out because secretary Darren Faulkner has work commitments and couldn't find a replacement.

He said: "I asked everyone but nobody wanted to know. It's a shame."

Phillips insisted the league had done everything in its power to keep teams with a number of money-saving initiatives.

He said league fees had not been increased for five years and this year had seen the bill for mandatory player insurance footed by the league, costing more than £2,000.

Penalty points for minor offences such as administration errors were also introduced instead of fines.

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