MSFL — for better or worse
Fewer teams and a fixture backlog have hampered the MSFL season. We ask if it can prevail with it’s current set-up
David Wolff: Yes
A kneejerk reaction isn't required. We must not lose sight of what we are about
I recently read that the league is 'in crisis' due to the demise of several teams this season. Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of the league is to provide football for the community and are here to serve the teams. In short we are here for the benefit of the teams and not the other way round.
There is no doubt, coinciding with the national trend, a decline in the number of people playing 11-a-side football. In our particular case players have been growing older and either giving up or moving to the Master's League where at the other end of the scale, less young team players are forming as was the case in previous years.
I would hope that this trend will reverse itself but even were it to remain stable and we have 50 teams we are still a healthy and viable organisation and quite able to sustain ourselves.
I would say that kneejerk reaction is not required. We certainly do not nor ever should change the ethos of the league either to withdraw from Maccabi GB or admit non-Jewish players. As members of Maccabi GB, we are part of an international organisation offering events that otherwise would bypass us.
To admit non-Jews, we would need to make it all or none to comply with the laws of the land and were we to follow the latter our very 'raison d'être' would be extinguished.
I am also sorry to see suggestions that we 'rid' ourselves of the multiple teams. They epitomise success, are all well run, and if you look at it sensibly you will see that the registration rules in place prohibit them from moving players about. I think you will appreciate that they are a necessary part of our league and I would urge you to leave well alone.
The suggestions to operate larger leagues would simply not be practical nor is the idea of starting earlier. The Football Association determine the dates of the seasons which run from July 1 to 31 May but Council grounds do not start until mid-September and finish mid-April (if you are lucky). Private grounds operate for slightly longer but costs are far greater than the Councils which in themselves are not cheap. Likewise, artificial pitches also cost huge amounts of money.
Midweek is another option but remember we are a Sunday organisation and cannot compel teams to play any other day and many players work long hours and just cannot afford the time.
Please do not lose sight of what we are about. That is a Sunday football league for the enjoyment of the community. I am delighted that nearly everyone takes it seriously.
Your Management Committee really do know how the league operates and what we can and cannot do. I hope that you will accept that.
David Wolff, chairman of the JC MSFL
Les Conway: No
We must acknowledge that there's an issue. I hope people wake up before it's too late
There's been an intrinsic problem in existence in football for years. It's nothing new and isn't exclusive to the MSFL, but unless actions are taken swiftly, it is only a matter of time before we see further damaging impact.
The League Management Committee are doing a good job, but it seems clear that they have no knowledge of how to ensure theirs and their participants long-term survival. They certainly have no plan or strategy. Let's not forget the recent demise of the Manchester and AJY Leagues and the strains that applied to the youth section in the south.
The system used to be supported by an active Youth Club movement where so many had football teams as by-products. These movements unfortunately appear to not have the same attraction as they once did, hence the knock-on effect.
What I fail to understand is that if the 'community' wants to be a community, then it has to acknowledge the core route of the issue and deal with it accordingly. Regardless of history or the reasons, MGB now plays the sole custodian role in all aspects of Jewish sport and should be at the centre in solving the issues.
The new MGBPFL youth league, from what I gather, is filling the gap in the market that it was intended but will have limitations on the number of participants it attracts. I raised with senior Maccabi officials the idea that if there was a desire to rectify the wider problem it should start at the bottom and work and up along with the top working down, meeting in the middle. Simply, if all three leagues were in broad terms rolled into one where you had a Youth League, an Adult League and a Masters League with all working to the same distinct brief and in conjunction with each other, there would be a much greater chance of establishing a product that was appealing to the majority and, more importantly, would give greater chance of growth and longevity.
Why in the main, MSFL or Masters clubs persist in their desire to be in effect one team clubs is beyond me. They should be openly encouraged, supported and offered incentives by MGB to create direct links with youth clubs (perhaps with formal mergers) or set up their own youth sections creating identity for youngsters and to give them something to aspire to.
If people really want to see a difference, they need to buy into the principle of 'preventative measures to ensure teams and more importantly clubs do not fold' and accept and buy into it and develop it as a long-term strategy. That's what the development of grassroots football is all about. Not least as by definition, it is this that creates 'community' which would establish the sustainability. People seem afraid to attempt any real change or indeed talk. One day, before it's too late, hopefully people will wake up!
Les Conway, chairman Pinner JFC