Opinion: Cost is holding back Sunday League football in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 12:20 03 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:20 03 February 2014
Reader Mark Brock believes cost is a major factor in the decline of Sunday football.
I run a club in the Norwich Division Sunday League and have done for two seasons. When I started the club, it was a group of school mates, college friends or guys who knew guys from local villages who were keen to play. The problem we had was players committing, the cost of a game, and the travel. There were two games last season where our travel was above 65 miles round trip, and then having to pay to play was adding insult to injury.
We went back to the drawing board this season, and made it fairer, cheaper subs on away games (£2) for all players. Drivers got paid either money towards fuel or they were exempt from subs. This helped players commit. When we started noticing 14-15 players turn up each week, we knew we were going in the right direction.
It is a full-time hobby. Managers can’t just send a text in the week and expect there to be a full squad turn up Sunday. You have to have people who are willing to spend their time doing the paperwork, setting up the nets, marking the pitch. I have a girlfriend who for two years has run the line weekly on a Sunday. She is also in charge of the club finances. Between us, we try to make it as cheap and enjoyable as we can.
To make Sunday football more attractive, there has to be a way local parks, parish councils and 3G pitches make their facilities more affordable. We pay £16 a pitch for a game and changing rooms, as well as nets and flags. I hear of teams in Norwich paying more than £40 a home game for a pitch, not including referee. There are hundreds of pitches in villages around Norfolk. The Football Association should work more closely with parish councils etc to help new clubs find an affordable pitch.
Having a pitch that’s cheaper is a start. It means that you can charge less for a game, which in turn mean players are more likely to play, especially players between 16-19 who may not be in employment.
Once that’s sorted, the club should actively seek support from the FA with paperwork. It is a lot to do - and maybe they should give new clubs the benefit of the doubt if they are late instead of fining them.
Sunday League isn’t what it used to be. Before, it was burly men throwing in big tackles and afterwards heading down to the local to scrape the mud off their knees and enjoy some afternoon football away from the wife. Now it’s teams who play on Saturdays who field Sunday teams.
A lot of 21-28 players are playing Sunday League, and the standard is better. Going forward, cost is the major problem. If football was free you would have far more teams, but it’s not - so making it as cheap as possible for a club and supporting that club is a step in the right direction.
Mark Brock (Shipdham Rangers)
Clayton Court, Garvestone.