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Stratford historic league faces fight for long-term future

One of the region’s oldest football leagues is in danger of folding unless more teams come forward ahead of next season.

And bosses of the Stratford Football Alliance could even look at introducing either a youth division or women’s league in an effort to keep operating.

Established back in 1896, just 12 teams have been involved for the past two seasons – a fraction of those taking part in the league’s heyday.

Secretary Barry Cooke blames a combination of rising costs and changing habits.

Barry Cooke. Photo: Mark Williamson
Barry Cooke. Photo: Mark Williamson

He said: “The numbers have fallen over the years. These days it is so expensive to start a new club and there is also a lack of volunteers. Nobody wants to give up the time anymore. It’s not just our league that’s suffering, they have all got smaller over the years.

“We used to have five big divisions and once you get down to the bare minimum it is very difficult to pick it up again. There have been 12 sides this season and last and we desperately need a few more.

“I wonder if the teams are there anymore, there seems to be other things for people to do with their time in this modern age. When I was a kid, we would have walked for miles for a game football but that’s not the case these days.

“I have been involved with the league for 45 years and it will be a sad day if it finishes.”

The current season is due to finish on Saturday when champions Kenilworth Sporting Reserves play their final match at home to Blockley.

Nursing Home Cup Final, FISSC vs Shottery. Photo: Mark Williamson
Nursing Home Cup Final, FISSC vs Shottery. Photo: Mark Williamson

And Cooke is desperate for the Stratford Alliance not to go the same way as the neighbouring Bromsgrove League which finished due to a lack of volunteers willing to get involved.

He said: “We are looking at other options such as having a youth league or a girls and women’s league, everything is on the table if it keeps the league running. We used to have u14 and u16 divisions on a Sunday afternoon as well as the five divisions but that dwindled away.

“It doesn’t help that we have other leagues encroaching into the area. The Hellenic League just keeps getting bigger and bigger. And there is always a cost to setting up a new club as they need to have DBS checks and a safeguarding officer. It’s all money that needs to be found. I know we need rules and regs but at the end of the day, people just want to be able to kick a football.

“This is our last chance to move forward but without further support, the league may be lost forever.”

If any club or team is interested in applying to the Stratford Football Alliance, they should contact Barry Cooke on 07767 204014 or email him at barrycooke20@btinternet.com.

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