Glyn Smith’s Kicking Grass: The future of local football I

Clubs continue to fold and teams struggle to field a full complement of players. Does local football still have a future and can its thrive again? Glyn Smith considers the game’s landscape in across the Keighley area.

Down and out: Long Lee joined Keighley Shamrocks in calling it a day for their senior team. Picture: David S Brett.

We reach the end of another season, with fewer teams playing than kicked off the season. Long Lee didn’t even reach the start line, while Bingley Town Reserves, Three Horses and Keighley Royals were among those failing to reach the campaign’s end.
A cloud of doubt hangs over the future of a number of local clubs and you have to ask just how many will be playing at Marley next season.
These comments, observations, theories and suggestions are based entirely on my own experiences. I make no claim to any magical insight or content. They are simply my opinions.
During my playing days it was pretty standard that clubs would be run by a committee of non-playing members.
That was still the case when I took on the role of club secretary at Haworth FC in the early 80s.

Cast adrift: Keighley Royals folded mid-season

It was a club rule that you couldn’t be on the committee and be a player. There was a chairman, secretary, treasurer, at least two other non-titled members plus the two team managers making up that committee.
In addition we also had players’ representatives, who could attend meetings if they had any points to put before the committee.
I’m sure there are clubs out there today who wish they could call on such resources.
More and more nowadays, clubs have to rely on players themselves to run them, taking on the roles of player-manager or secretary.
Is there anything wrong in this? Well I have always advocated that the less players have to do, other than turn up to train and play, the better are the chances of survival and progression.
There are always exceptions but if players have to take on the responsibility of managing and running the club, the greater the strain on those few individuals and the greater the risk, should they throw in the towel, that the club will fold.
How can we turn back the clock? How do we get more non-playing members back into the clubs and is this the right way forward?

Old ways: Oxenhope have a 'proper' committee and are enjoying success.

Well if you look at those clubs that still operate under this system – Silsden, Steeton and Oxenhope are ones that come most easily to mind, you have to ask is it coincidence that these clubs are arguably the most successful in this area?
Their facilities continue to improve along with their success on the field. Other clubs are finding it difficult to get a toe-hold or continue to stagnate.
I don’t know enough about these latter clubs’ organisations to say if it has anything to do with lack of “willing bodies” – perhaps someone would enlighten me?
What changed? Well it’s difficult to put a finger on that but when I left Haworth to try something new (for me) with Keighley Lifts in the 90s, I was the last committee member who wasn’t a player, except perhaps the managers.
I felt the club was becoming too insular and beginning to stagnate.
Even though I returned a few seasons later and enjoyed a certain amount of success, the club itself was sadly still going nowhere.
One of the reasons for this, I believe, was the failure to involve what had been a thriving junior section. The sad result was that within a couple more seasons (after I left) both clubs were no more.

Appeal: Steeton asked for outside help

I believe one of the reasons the true ‘committee man, is becoming rare is that clubs have simply stopped looking for these helpers from outside the club.
If someone within the club’s existing ranks can’t do it, then it doesn’t get done. The only exception I know of that has bucked this trend recently is Steeton.
They ‘advertised’ for additional helpers and it was good to see professional forward thinking for a change.
As a manager I was often told that players ‘liked to be asked to come and play’. Well maybe that also applies to non-playing members too.
Perhaps it’s time for clubs to take a look around and start inviting others to get involved.
Coming soon: What are, or should be, the connection between senior and youth sections?
What chance the return of a Keighley League?

  • What do you think? Should players be involved in running clubs? What are the alternatives? How do you attract former players to stay on in an administrative or background role? Does you club still have a nucleus of non-playing committee members and how does it work?
    Add your comments below or email Keighley Kicks editorial@keighleykicks.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Whom Do You See?