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Final whistle blows on Gainsborough Saturday League

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: August 18, 2012

Gainsborough Saturday League

End of the road: Retford Town (in red) and Haxey in action in what turned out to be the final season on the Gainsborough Saturday League

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If Saturday afternoon amateur football was a wounded animal, it may be time to put it out of its misery.

This damning assessment of the state of the game in this area comes after two established Saturday football leagues were forced to sound their final whistle.

Earlier this summer the West Lindsey Football League was forced to close due to a lack of teams after 92 years in existence.

And this week, it has been confirmed that the Gainsborough and District Saturday Football League was finished, ending 108 years of history and tradition.

But Gainsborough League secretary Steve Lilley has called on the declining amateur football fraternity to heed the warning signs and make moves to save their game.

Only five teams confirmed their interest to compete in the Gainsborough league this coming season, which left no choice but to bring the curtain down on more than a century of football.

"If football wanted a wake-up call, they have just had it," said Lilley.

"I am extremely saddened by it, but the decline has been accelerating over the last three or four years.

"I have been secretary of this league for the past 21 years. When I started there were 34 teams, but that number went up to 42 and we had four divisions."

"To be reduced to just five teams makes it impossible to continue at this time."

Lilley, who is also a director of the Lincolnshire Football Association, believes busy modern day lives, the current financial downturn and televised Premier League matches on Saturday lunch times have dealt a heavy blow to Saturday amateur football.

But he also points an accusing finger at the game's elite, and the pampered players in the Premier League.

"Young people need good role models and I'm not sure there are any coming from the world of football anymore," Lilley added. "At the London Olympics, so many other sports have had fantastic publicity, with superb sporting role models emerging like Jessica Ennis and Sir Chris Hoy.

"I don't think this is the case with football any more. The game gets so much poor publicity, youngsters are obviously looking at other activities.

"The days are long gone when a big team like Liverpool comes along to Scunthorpe to buy a Kevin Keegan. Instead, they would go abroad and sign a player already established as an international.

"Your average man in the street just cannot relate to a superstar millionaire.

"There has to be more money coming down from the top to the grass roots – it just has to happen, otherwise I don't see how we will halt this sad decline."

Martin Keeton has been secretary of Retford Town for the past 12 years and has been forced to move the side to the Lincoln League due to the closure of the Gainsborough Saturday League.

"It is depressing," he said. "When I was younger, Saturday afternoons were all about football and you played on a Saturday, because you wanted to progress to the highest level you could.

"You want to play your local football in a local league, but now we will be travelling to Market Rasen, Horncastle, Gainsborough and Lincoln. It's quite spread out.

"I think the decline has come about because people are very often working on Saturdays and playing their football on a Sunday.

"The Sunday football leagues seem to be going well and the midweek six-a-side leagues also seem to be popular.

"We have moved to the Lincoln League and there were nine teams competing, but I believe one team has already pulled out.

"I would love to see a return to a full Gainsborough League with two divisions.

"It's so sad that on a Saturday there are about 12 football pitches not being used on a Saturday afternoon."

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  • Sweepclean  |  August 20 2012, 4:04PM

    Sorry about the 3 posts but it informed me the post hadn't been sent. Then all of a sudden 3 appear something like buses

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  • Sweepclean  |  August 20 2012, 4:02PM

    Sorry about the 3 posts but it informed me the post hadn't been sent. Then all of a sudden 3 appear something like buses

    |   -1
  • Sweepclean  |  August 20 2012, 3:52PM

    Many years ago when the shops used to shut for half day closing on a Wednesday there used to be a Wednesday League in Lincoln and surrounding area made up from shop keepers butchers etc and which was a very competitive league. So why can't the Lincs FA give the teams a choice as to which day would suit the majority of teams and even referees etc. This is only a suggestion But anyone who wants to expand on this and add there ideas please do Come on Nigel I know you will

  • Sweepclean  |  August 20 2012, 3:52PM

    Many years ago when the shops used to shut for half day closing on a Wednesday there used to be a Wednesday League in Lincoln and surrounding area made up from shop keepers butchers etc and which was a very competitive league. So why can't the Lincs FA give the teams a choice as to which day would suit the majority of teams and even referees etc. This is only a suggestion But anyone who wants to expand on this and add there ideas please do Come on Nigel I know you will

  • Sweepclean  |  August 20 2012, 3:51PM

    Many years ago when the shops used to shut for half day closing on a Wednesday there used to be a Wednesday League in Lincoln and surrounding area made up from shop keepers butchers etc and which was a very competitive league. So why can't the Lincs FA give the teams a choice as to which day would suit the majority of teams and even referees etc. This is only a suggestion But anyone who wants to expand on this and add there ideas please do Come on Nigel I know you will

  • eatmygoal  |  August 20 2012, 1:39PM

    I am not sure about the point over superstar millioaires because by the time you play in this league you know whether you will be one of them or not. Also for every Tevez there is a Linvoy Primus. For my two pennies worth, the death of football at this level is due to the change of how people live their lives. I spend most of my weekend travelling around meeting up with friends or doing watching football. I don't have children but I imagine they would also take up a parent's time at the weekend. Then there is work but also supporting a football team at home, or even away. I think a basic lack of commitment is the main reason, people don't want to say that for 9 months of the year they will be in a certain place on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, come rain or shine. And quite the opposite of the recession, I believe there is more disposable income now than a few years ago (80s), and certainly plenty more options for things to do on a weekend than ever before. 5-a-side midweek continues to be hugely popular as you are more likely to be less busy during the week, the cost is less, it's in an evening so no early mornings, and the seasons are shorter so you don't spend 9 months of your life squelching around a muddy pitch with a hangover to get tonked 5-0 every week while languishing at the bottom of the league.

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  • nigelsparky  |  August 19 2012, 10:40AM

    I don't think you can pinpoint the FA as being to blame for the demise of the "local" Satuday leagues. There are many factors that have contributed to it's decline in popularity.I think factors such as the thuggish behaviour on and off the pitches by players and officials, referees being abused verbally and physically, players avoiding paying " subs" and fines to their respective clubs, all have helped in it's demise.People who used to enjoy running the clubs, have by and large, had enough of the hassle of it. It's a shame, but it has been coming for a number of years now. My real concern is that this kind of behaviour, has now crept into the kids leagues, which, as we all know, is the grassroots of the game, and if it's not addressed, the kids leagues will also go into decline,which in turn, will affect the professional game.

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  • GedlingTnPeck  |  August 19 2012, 8:59AM

    Always sad to see a League go and lack of interest from Clubs. However to blame it on the professional game is a bit simplistic. Mr Lilley being a member of the Lincs FA ought to realise that it is the organisation of which he is a member and many like it that are killing local Saturday football with Club administration becoming an increasing nightmare, exhorbitant costs before a ball is even kicked and clubs being fined for the most trivial of offences. It is increaasingly disheartening, for clubs to wonder where the money is coming from as fine is heaped on fine and the loyal band of volunteers are no longer prepared to put their hands in their pockets Just as an example at Lincoln Moorlands recently the match officials alone cost £178 for one game. We have to meet that before we have to meet any other costs. With no other income than our gate money this sort of expenditire will be the death knell of many local clubs unless the authorities of the football Association begin to realise that committing such expenditure to clubs clubs will not survive unless joe public goes and support them through the turmstyle and businesses start to put a little money into local clubs. Perhaps Mr Lilley might do well to open this debate up within the Lincs FA and the National Football Association. Whilst players play a part in the demise of teams and Leagues, the Administrators have are a large part to blame as well

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