Bureaucracy own goal for youth football

YOUTH football clubs have hit out at hundreds of pounds of fines slapped on them by the local league for bureaucratic errors such as seven-year-old boys not signing their signature correctly at matches.

By Juliette Maxam

YOUTH football clubs have hit out at hundreds of pounds of fines slapped on them by the local league for bureaucratic errors such as seven-year-old boys not signing their signature correctly at matches.

Clubs in the Colchester and District Youth League have been fined for not filling in match sheets properly, not sending the sheets to the league in time, not phoning in the result on time and other administrative mistakes.

Some of the clubs have amassed fines of several hundreds of pounds - which they say would pay for new football strips and training equipment for their youngsters.

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But yesterday the president of the league, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Andrews, said clubs agreed to the rules and if they broke them they had to live with the consequences.

Stanway Rovers Youth Football Club was penalised because boys in the two under-8s teams were not reproducing the same signature they used on their registration cards when they signed match sheets before each game.

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The boys, aged seven to eight years old, signed their registration cards at home, while their match sheets had to be signed on the pitch, often in wind or rain. The club was fined £35 for each match sheet with the problem.

Stanway Rovers appealed to Essex County Football Association, which said it was concerned about the advisability of young players signing match sheets.

In total, Stanway Rovers has been fined £445 so far in the 2005/06 season, with more to come, said secretary Louise Brown. Their mistakes included not marking referees - who are often dads of a team member - at under-8s games, failing to get the opposition team to sign a match sheet and failing to fulfil a fixture when the pitch was frozen.

Lexden Saints Youth Football Club has been fined £600 this season, for a number of administrative matters, including not naming substitutes on mini-soccer match sheets and failing to get referees in mini-soccer to declare an interest in the sides. The club has successfully appealed against some of the fines

Club secretary David Hughes said: “This year we've had more fines in the space of one weekend than over the whole of the last season. All our money comes from parents. Six hundred pounds would buy a kit for next year's under-8s.

“If they raised fines because of the kids fighting or swearing or parents behaving badly, no-one would complain. The fact is it's an administrative burden placed on the clubs which is too great. It's of no benefit to the players.

“If that money then gets regenerated back into clubs and returned to clubs through the purchase of footballs or equipment, I don't think anyone would mind, but it doesn't. We would like to see more emphasis on helping clubs to help kids rather than rather than this administrative burden on clubs.”

He added: “I think the mood of the members is enough is enough.”

Lt Col Andrews said: “They (the clubs) made these rules. They were sanctioned by Essex County Football Association. They voted the committee in to deal with all misdemeanours of their rules, if they break them they have got to take the consequences.”

He added: “My words to them are: 'If you don't want to be fined, don't break the rules.' I know it costs an awful lot of money to run clubs. I do appreciate all the hard work and effort they put in any club to run these teams.

“I'm not going to say we have got everything right. We are going to make small errors.”

He said rules regarding the naming of substitutes and the referees' declaration in mini-soccer games had been changed after the league's paperwork had been published, but all clubs had been informed of the changes.

Lt Col Andrews admitted there are some “large sums” involved, but said many teams have not made any mistakes at all. He said the league committee, who are all unpaid volunteers, spend the money raised on certificates for all 5,000 youngsters in the league, medals, trophies and shields.

He said clubs could propose changes to the rules at the club's annual general meeting, which is due to be held next month.

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