Norwich Sunday League hit by ‘ridiculous’ number of call-offs

Ben Casey, left, has stepped down after 10 years as secretary of the Norwich Sunday League Picture:

Ben Casey, left, has stepped down after 10 years as secretary of the Norwich Sunday League Picture: Steve Brown - Credit: Archant

Norwich & District Sunday League secretary Ben Casey has labelled the number of call-offs over the course of last season as 'ridiculous'.

Riverside Rovers, who completed a league and cup double in the Norwich Sunday League, celebrate thei

Riverside Rovers, who completed a league and cup double in the Norwich Sunday League, celebrate their title success of 2018 Picture: Ben Casey - Credit: Archant

While the weather was generally kind, allowing the league to finish on schedule, there were still regular gaps in the fixture list as clubs pulled out of games because of a lack of available players.

In his final speech as secretary before standing down after 10 years in the role, Casey told the league's annual meeting at Open Academy that certain member clubs should make a greater effort to get games on, with the current situation making life difficult for those behind the scenes.

"Fifty games were awarded this season, a ridiculous amount which doesn't take into account other non-fulfilments for genuine reasons," said Casey.

"I have worked very closely with fixture secretary Bernie Hardiman and there is no doubt he has never been so despondent with the attitude of players and clubs as he has this season. After over 50 years in the role you'd have thought he had seen it all but some of the excuses clubs gave him for calling off just left him aghast.

"When you sign up to play football on a Sunday, clubs are expected to abide by the rules that they themselves determine, they do not pick and choose who they play and when they will play them. 95 percent of clubs adhere to the league rules without fuss, the rest must learn to do so.

"We will continue to monitor the situation closely and if we take severe action as a deterrent to people not being able to raise a side two days before a game due to a stag do or wedding or christening etc, then so be it.

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"Bernie has always bent over backwards to help clubs when given plenty of notice, but it seems that he gets let down by certain clubs more and more each year.

"In the Anglian Combination the offending club gets a £50 fine, the game is awarded and a point deducted, without question. We have the power to do that and in the past have always believed that we should take each case on its merits, but this season it became impossible for us to continue with that trend.

"Due to the amount of times teams tended to call off at the drop of a hat it became clear that if we didn't take action in awarding games we would still be playing now."

The outgoing secretary also reminded players and clubs of their responsibilities when using social media, with a number of incidents being brought to their attention over the course of the 2018-19 season.

"It continues to be a bit of a minefield, with some clubs blissfully unaware that stuff posted on Facebook or Twitter etc that is deemed to be bringing the league into disrepute can bring a charge, especially when a post is full of misinformation," he said.

"Fortunately, since the league has set up social media accounts, abuses of it have been few and far between but some of the posts from faceless keyboard warriors leave a lot to be desired.

"Stuff like 'they don't know what they're doing' and 'how hard can it be to run a league'. We even got accused of bringing in sin bins to make the league even more money by one uneducated person. It makes you question yourself and make you wonder why you do it when all we want to do is provide people with a chance to play the game. If you want to know how hard it is, don't sit behind a keyboard, come and try it. We are always on the lookout for new committee members and social media seems to have all the answers."

Casey said he remained proud that the league, backed by the Norwich Evening News, was still going strong after 60 years, despite the big challenges facing organised 11-a-side football.

"I have seen many changes to not just the league but grassroots football in general," he said. "It's common knowledge that over this period the game and attitudes towards it have changed. No longer is football the be all and end all to a player's weekend and grassroots football, and us as a league, have had to change with the times to cope with it.

"This season marked our 60th as a League. That is an achievement that I and every member of the committee is extremely proud of. It's a sad fact that within that time we have seen other leagues rise and fold. But pleasingly for us, we are set to run as last season with five divisions."

On a personal note he added: "After 46 years of this league being a big part of my life, the last 23 on the committee, my time is at an end. I made the decision with a heavy heart but I know it was the correct one. I wish everybody all the very best for the future and I have no doubt whatsoever the league will prosper and continue to provide football for all those who love the great game."

Former assistant Steve Brown is the new secretary, with Kevin Brown assistant secretary and treasurer and Gabby Evbota the new deputy chairman. Casey been made a vice president and life member.