11-a-side football in a bad way

Excitement, nerves and predictions. More often than not, that is what the beginning of any football season should be about. But not this time ...

What has happened to all the players? That is the question that has been asked by London Lions boss Tony Gold, Maccabi GB (Southern) Football League chairman David Wolff and Maccabi Masters chairman Stuart Lustigman in recent weeks, and I find it all a bit depressing.

Gold has seen his team shorn of quality and he says that “not enough good players are coming through” to play at Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division standard. But it doesn’t stop there. Numbers are down in both the MSFL and Masters Leagues and it appears there is no way of stopping the slump.

The MSFL is down to 41 teams. Only a few years ago it was at a high of 65. The Masters scene has been flourishing, but with defending champions Glenthorne United A pulling out three weeks before the league’s 15th season, the signs look ominous.

Lustigman called a meeting this week to discuss the way forward. “As a committee, we can only work with those teams that want to play,” he said.

"We have a great ‘product’ and I am sure that over the years the MMFL will grow — adding more players to our existing numbers of almost 400 — although with teams in the MSFL decreasing from 60 to 40 over the past few years, the flow is bound to slow."

Over the past few months Rowley Lane has been a hive of activity, with many of the Team GB squads preparing for the Maccabiah Games. But it’s about what happens for the other three years as well.

The sad fact of the matter is that 11-a-side football is no longer the be-all and end-all for the masses.
The lure of watching top-level sport, spiralling costs and hobbies such as computer games are the result of falling numbers.

So the message is, if you’re about to start your season, enjoy it while you can.

* It’s been a bad summer for the Aussies, what with the bashing in the Ashes, but I managed to avert a big sporting shock at a recent work leaving do when my editorial colleague, Zoe Winograd, led yours truly for eight rounds in a game of ten-pin bowling. Fortunately I managed to get my act together in the last two games, with a timely strike and a typical Aussie choke resulting in a narrow escape. Marcus Dysch, the pride of Hull, limped home in fifth position.

    Last updated: 11:20am, August 30 2013