Crisis looming for grassroots football? Two more Suffolk teams fold

The grassroots game is facing difficult challenges ahead. Photo: Steve Waller

The grassroots game is facing difficult challenges ahead. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

It’s not a crisis – yet.

But the number of non-league football sides folding in Suffolk – and nationally – is rising dramatically, and set to increase.

Stanton Reserves (Suffolk and Ipswich League) and Corton (Anglian Combination – a club more than 110 years old) are the two latest teams to sadly throw in the towel, as the number of Suffolk teams who have packed up since August moves into double figures.

Suffolk FA Adult Male 11 v 11 Officer Gary Pinyoun, inset right, knows he has a difficult task on his hands as he tries to assist clubs and teams.

“I’d love to hit the nail on the head and say I know what’s going wrong and what can be done to solve it, but it’s not like that,” he said.

“While Suffolk FA does not have a magic wand, we are here to support the clubs and leagues in the county with ideas about how they can develop for the future.

“I’m saying to teams who think they are in trouble, call me, talk to me, just to see if there is something I can help with.

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“But I don’t want to be a last resort either, speak to me at any time.

“Sadly, though I think more teams are going to go to the wall before this season is out.”

Lifestyle changes, player commitment and financial issues are the main reasons teams are struggling, as Pinyoun acknowledges.

“There is no one thing which is causing teams to fold, but people’s lifestyles are certainly different today,” he said.

“Stag nights are now Stag weekends, it’s the ‘beautiful game’ but has the ‘beautiful game moved with the times? I don’t know that it has.

“Do Saturday leagues have to kick off at 3pm on a Saturday?

“Youth football has changed over the last few years and for the better, whereas adult football has changed little.

“League fines can be an issue for some clubs and teams. Suffolk FA don’t set fines for league issues. Leagues maybe need to ask themselves how much money do they have in their coffers? Do they need that amount?”

And Pinyoun makes a point about youth teams.

“Many of the adult teams who have folded so far this season don’t have connections with a youth team, while there are youth teams out there who don’t have connections with a senior team,” he said.

“Clubs should look to youth. Too many adult teams are just surviving on a week to week basis.

“I am keen to hear from all clubs. My role involves liaising with the clubs and being the point of contact for players, coaches and leagues.”

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