The Morpeth Sunday League is approaching the start of its 52nd season with grave concerns for the future.
At the league’s 51st annual meeting earlier this month, it was recorded that another four clubs have folded with only one new application.
This leaves the league with 17 clubs in total for the coming campaign.
Ten years ago, it had a membership of 44 clubs across four divisions. There now remains two divisions of eight and nine clubs, barely enough to serve their purpose of providing enough home fixtures to make the average pitch fee of £500 viable, given that they will only play less than 10 home matches.
Long-serving league secretary and president Syd Johnson, who has been at the helm since the league started, is understandably concerned at the situation.
He said: “This is a malaise which is affecting grassroots football throughout the county, and there are several possible explanations.
“At a home game, a club will have to fork out nearly £50 average ground rent to local authorities, as well as pay the referee in the region of £25. There is also the question of insurance, equipment, and laundering the strips.
“In the past, the local pubs and clubs would sponsor the team, but this has almost disappeared. In the current financial climate, donations are few and far between and mainly go to the county’s senior clubs.
“While it is encouraging to see the current explosion of junior and small-sided football, throughout the county, this has its effect on adult 11-a-side football.
“Children are playing the game as young as eight or nine years of age, and when they reach 17, they already have eight or nine years in the game.
“Also, the parents, whose input and support of their kids is commendable, fall by the wayside when their child reaches 16 or 17, and if there are no more offspring to go and support, are lost to the game.
“While there are always valuable volunteers, who are the lifeblood of the game, these are becoming much rarer, and the current social climate is also not what it was, and habits are changing.”
As league president, Syd sees the need for everyone to tackle the drain of clubs and anyone interested in becoming league members should contact Syd on 01670 531224 or email sydjohnson@hot mail.co.uk