A LEAGUE for village teams that has been around for more than a century has folded.
The Treadfirst Halstead and District League had hosted Kedington, Belchamps, Clare Reserves, Helions Bumpstead and Haverhill outfit Punch 68 last season and had been operating for 102 years.
Fourteen teams competed in the league last season, but only nine were due to play in it in the coming campaign.
At the annual general meeting (AGM) on June 12 it was decided to keep the league going, but last season’s champions Belchamps and third-placed Pebmarsh subsequently pulled out – Belchamps wished to pursue a switch to the Colchester leagues and Pebmarsh folded.
With only seven teams left willing to compete in the league, the decision was taken by the committee that it was not viable.
Former league secretary and vice-chairman Tom Abrahams, from Gosfield, played for his home-town club in the 1970s and has been involved with the league for around 20 years.
“What we’ve seen is club’s pulling out and folding due to a lack of people to run these clubs,” he said.
“Helions Bumpstead are a prime example – they had a good season with us (finished fifth) but when it came to their AGM they couldn’t get a secretary or team manager, and that seems to have been a fairly typical reaction.
“Obviously the management committee are bitterly disappointed – the league is 102 years old, long standing and very well known, but if we haven’t got the clubs there’s not a lot we can do.
“We will now advise the remaining clubs as soon as possible so that they have a chance to apply to another league.
“When I played in the 70s there were three divisions with about 18 teams in each division – around 50 teams in a very vibrant league, but over the years it has haemorrhaged away as clubs joined other league like the Border League, which has expanded.
“Back then Toppesfield, Wethersfield and Dunmow all had clubs, but not anymore.
“We should be really thankful for the chairman Dennis Peach, from Ashdon, who has been excellent and worked very hard.”
Abrahams said it would require a ‘massive influx’ of clubs for the league to be re-formed.
Punch 68, Clare Reserves and Kedington are now all in consultation with the Cambridge leagues as they look to join in at BIS level.
Alan Moule, Kedington secretary and member of the Halstead League committee, said the ‘writing had been on the wall’ for the league.
“The decision made complete sense because if we kept advertising and didn’t get any teams joining to make it viable then that would have put the clubs well beyond the point of applying to the leagues,” he said.
“It has been a fairly slow demise – the writing has been on the wall for a few years now.
“It was quite disappointing as last year we actually had an increase in numbers to 13 teams which was good, but unfortunately while there are plenty of players from around Haverhill who don’t want to travel to the extremes of the Cambridge, Essex and even St Edmundsbury leagues, there are not enough interested in keeping it this local.
“Youngsters players want to further their careers and work their way up the rungs, and with this sort of league you don’t get that opportunity.
“The teams that have won the league over the last few years have looked to move on, hence so many have left it was inevitable that this was going to happen at some point or another.
“It was nice to get through the centenary and the club’s benefited from and enjoyed reaching that point, but now 11-a-side men’s football just can’t sustain the number of leagues that there are.”
With regards to what Kedington will now do, he added: “At the moment we’re in consultation with the Cambridge leagues to try and find a resolution, and I would imagine that would be a fairly similar standard.”
For all the latest sport see Thursday’s (July 5) Echo.