News | Teamsports Teamsport facing biggestmatch

FOOTBALL leagues folding, cricket teams pulling out of has been a bleak summer for the traditional teamsports in the area. Increasing commitments at home

andwork are impacting on people’s time andithas left anumber of clubs fighting to survive. We first reported inMay that the

Maidstone & District Football League, the oldest local league in the country, was in danger of folding due to a lack of teams. And so it came to pass, the league

deciding itwas unable to continue. But they are not the only ones.

Cricket clubs are also finding it tough, with Detling, Hollingbourne and Teston all pulling out of their leagues in 2018, instead focusing on friendly games and, in one case, con- templating if the club has a future as awhole. Ian Gutteridge is chairman, secre-

tary, fixture secretary and “every- thing else” at Hollingbourne and admits itwas a toughdecisiontolook at folding the club. But he adds: “To be honest, every

teamsport is on its knees. “It’s always been a struggle, you

get players who phone up on a Fri- day night and say they’ve forgotten some eventorother,whichisusually a lie,but theyhavenoappreciationof the fact they are letting 10 other blokes down aswell.” Downs Mail has spoken to clubs

from a number of sports, and has found thatwhile youth sport contin- ues to thrive, it is that transition into adult sport that is the trickiest. “It’s tough, they get a job, they

leave school, theymay go to univer- sity and rugby can definitely be cast aside at what is a turbulent time in their lives,” saysAylesford Bulls di- rector of rugbyNeilWiltshire. The next generation of club stal-

warts is slow in coming forward. Those in their 20s and 30s are find- ing with work and family commit- ments, it ismuch harder to dedicate part of theweekend to playing sport – no matter how much they may want to. Peter Erlam, captain of TestonCC,

hits the nail on the head when he says: “I think Sunday trading laws have changed that so much – Sun- day is a shopping day nowwhereas it used to be a day for sport.” The need to have pay-TV sub-

scriptions to watch top-level sport may also be having an impact, but is it just that thewaypeoplewant toex- ercise has changed? Forwhile participation in football,

cricket and other team sports is down – just 3.2 million said in the most recent Sport England survey that they played team sports more than twice in a month – the figures for running showan increase to 7m, and 13msay they take part in other “fitness activities”, i.e. going to the gym. Sport England chief executive

Jennie Price said: “While the over- all activity levels of the nation are stable,what people are choosing to do ismovingwith the times.”

Players fromTeston Cricket Club

Youth ‘key to future’ at Teston Peter insists that the club is in no

TESTCNCricket Club has been hit so hard that it has pulled out of their league fixtures - but with a bur- geoning youth system, it insists it is just a temporary hiatus. The club decided at the start of

the season not to fulfil their fixtures in Kent Village Cricket League Divi- sion Four. Captain Peter Erlamsaid: “We have struggled for the past two or three years to get two teams out every weekend,” he said. “And that meant we were fielding under- strength teams in our league fix- tures most weeks. This season, we just felt we had reached the end of the road in terms of resources of getting players, so we reluctantly took the decision to withdraw from the league.”

danger of folding – “cricket is in our blood” – but the landscape has changed. “The club had the same tea lady, Ilma Cooper, for 50 years,” he added. “But now it’s all down to the players themselves to provide the refreshments. Teston is a small village, there’s not many young families and there’s no school, so for several yearswe’ve not had anyone who lives in the village actually play- ing for the club. Weekend life is so different from how it was 20 years ago.” Butwhere the club does stand out

is its strong youth section. “Our opening bowlers on a Satur-

day are 13 and 14,” the skipper added.

FAsearching for a fix as football flounders

PARK football has, in many ways, been an institution of English life. The images of HackneyMarshes

where in its heyday therewere 120 pitches in use at the same time – more than 2,500 players – are etched in thememory. But now, the amateur game is

getting smaller and smaller. But now, the amateur game is

getting smaller and smaller. The folding of theMaidstone and

District League ahead of its 125th anniversary season was a blow to the game, although in the 2017/18 season it had contained just eight teams in a solitary division. TheKent FAare trying a number

of initiatives to keep the 11-a-side game going outside of the pyramid system, but Senior Football Devel- opment Officer and lead on 11-a- side adult male football Lee Suter admits there are a number of issues to face.

18 Maidstone East July 2018 “There’s not just one reasonwhy

the participation is declining,” he s a i d . “There’s the cost of running a team, peo- ple have less time, f a m i l y commi t - m e n t s , work pat- ters,


fear of in- jury that could lead to a loss of income and, logistically, you can only play 11-a-side football on Sat- urday afternoons or Sundaymorn- ings. “The challenge is the increasing

number of other sporting activities such as going to the gym, cycling

and running aswell as sport on TV, cinema trips etcwhich can be done w h e n p e o p l e want, for as long as they w a n t a n d w h e r e t h e y want.” Partic-

ipat ion has been in steady decl ine for


past ten years,withKent losing 6% of its adult 11-a-side teams each year – although that is better than the national picture of a 10%fall. Lee insists that five-a-side is not

having toomuch of an impact, but admits the FA are having to think

outside of the box to try and tempt players back to the full-size game. “Generally, if you play five-a-

side you will continue playing other formats,” he adds. “People who playwhatever format love the game and play at every opportu- nity. “The key to sustaining and even-

tually growing 11v11 adult male football in Kent is offering flexible alternatives built around the par- ticipants and not based on struc- tures that we have been following for the last 30 seasons. “Offering opportunities such as

turn up and play sessions, flexi football

leagues with shorter

games,mid-week football and vet- erans football will engage with a greater audience while being un- pinned by themore recognised for- mat of 11v11 adultmale football on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.”

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