Danny Reuben, the head of London Maccabi Lions’ Sunday section, hit out at the club’s younger players after he was forced to pull its B team from the league.
Reuben cited a lack of commitment and enthusiasm as part of the reason the team had to fold. He said: “At the beginning of the season we were confident we had enough players. We desperately wanted to keep the side going and this is not a decision we have taken lightly. We did everything to keep the team alive.”
Lions’ demise means that they become the second Premier Division team to fold this season — after South Mancs — and third in total with Montana Boca United B also having slipped off the radar.
Lions’ last league match was played on November 7 and they had yet to win a match this season. They had also crashed out of both cup competitions and needed to boost the team for the recent Peter Morrison Trophy tie against the Maccabi Masters with several members of their veterans team.
The Rowley Lane club has the most members of any Jewish side in the country. Reuben said: “There is definitely a lack of commitment from the next generation. Unfortunately, football is not enough. A large amount of our players are at university. Obviously, they cannot be available every week but this group of players have made themselves less available as a whole this year.”
Another factor was injuries with 17 long-term absentees leaving player-manager Dan Levy with an impossible task. Reuben told me that at times, he had to make “100 phonecalls a week to try and pull together 11 footballers”.
Reuben believes that the issue of declining numbers is not just limited to Jewish football. “Clearly, there is now a smaller pool of players that are committing themselves to playing 11 a - side football on a weekly basis.
This is not only in the Jewish community, but also a problem nationally. Leagues are getting smaller as more and more teams fold. Boys in their late teens and 20s now seem happier to play in midweek five-a-side rather than having to get up on a Sunday morning after a heavy Saturday night.
“Whilst we are all trying to engage these boys we are unfortunately swimming against a very strong tide. At Lions we strive to offer our boys the best facilities and coaches available, but the general apathy is sole destroying for those that put everything in to creating that environment.”
With the club’s Saturday team now competing in the South Midlands League, Reuben believes that this has a knock-on effect. “London Lions continue to represent our community at the highest levels any all-Jewish team has ever done. Players who used to make themselves available to our Sunday A team after playing on Saturdays are now not able to due to the demands of playing at a higher level.
“There is no coincidence that both Lions A and NWN A have struggled this year in the MSFL as the ‘better players’ have not been making themselves available on Sunday mornings.”
On that subject, Reuben believes that the decision to have two teams from the same club in the top division is unworkable.
“For the past few seasons it has been a real strain on all the managers with the prohibitive rules that stop the movement of players between our teams. This has been a major issue for us.”
David Wolff, the MSFL chairman, said: “It’s very regrettable but I’m more disappointed than surprised as I knew it was going to happen. It’s really very sad.”
With the Premier Division now down to eight teams, Wolff confirmed that no decision has been made on the issue of relegation. “It’s something that the committee needs to discuss.”
Reuben believes that it is not all doom and gloom for the MSFL. “A number of snipers appear to be levelling criticism at what is a wonderful league. The Jewish community should be proud of the MSFL football. Yes, the MSFL has to evolve but I’m sure the league committee are continuously looking at ways to move forward. We still have 50 teams in the league, which is incredible.”