Danny Hall’s Column: Freezing temperatures and mudbath pitches set to remain as Sheffield clubs reject change to summer football

Action from the Year 8 Sheffield Schools Football Cup Final 2015 game between Westfield (Red Shirts) and All Saints (blue shirts)
Action from the Year 8 Sheffield Schools Football Cup Final 2015 game between Westfield (Red Shirts) and All Saints (blue shirts)

Kids’ football in the South Yorkshire region will not be moving to the summer months after clubs in the Sheffield and District Junior Sunday League elected not to change the season structure.

SDJSFL clubs were balloted last night, at a special league meeting, on the issue of summer football - and asked whether the league should implement a summer pilot next year, following the lead of the junior league in Bolton.

Ahead of the meeting, a survey was sent to clubs and, of the 822 responses from players, managers, parents and referees, 39 per cent favoured a summer schedule - playing from March to May, having June, July and August off for holidays, tournaments and other sports, before completing the season in September, October and November.

Futsal, a skills-focused version of the game played indoors, would then be offered between December and February.

The proposition of a winter break gathered 33 per cent of votes but, crucially, only 27 per cent - just over a quarter - believe the system works as it is, and voted to keep it.

But clubs voted against moving to summer on the night, meaning the league will remain as it is - with many games over the winter months either postponed, or played in unsuitable conditions.

The issue gathered an interesting spectrum of responses when it was raised in Star writer Danny Hall’s column in the Sheffield Telegraph earlier this year.

Citing poor pitches and cold weather, he proposed a change to the structure of local junior football to avoid freezing-cold Sunday morning mudbaths, and instead allow youngsters to play on grass and learn more about the game and their own development.

READ DANNY’S ORIGINAL SUMMER FOOTBALL COLUMN HERE: Click here to read Danny’s column on summer football

But not all clubs were keen.

“If a summer league happens, we will not have any part of it,” insisted Chris Sugden, of Norton Lees Juniors FC.

“Summer months are time for family and some type or R&R, not getting dragged out to the other side of the North Midlands.

“It is exactly the typical sort of aggressive money making that we have come to expect.”

Quite how moving football to the summer can be seen as ‘money-making’ is an interesting one, but it was one of many opinions voiced last night at the league meeting, which occurred after Grass Roots’ deadline. A full report, and reaction, to the decision will be included in next Friday’s edition.

Scott Concannon, of Valley Juniors JFC, added: “Coaches and parents are mostly against the idea but 99 per cent of players are all for it - which leads me to ask, surely we should go with the kids’ views?

“After all, they are the ones that matter!

“Some parents complain that it will clash with cricket but we already compete with martial arts, boxing, swimming, running clubs, table tennis, mountain biking as well as cubs and scouts, so why not football? People are just too stuck in their ways.”

Following the vote, Craig Cornwall tweeted: “Still taken aback that Swinton were one of only three clubs to support the move to summer football at the SDJSFL meeting last night.

“This is a huge opportunity missed. Resistance to change and lack of foresight continues to hold back the game. “It’s not the fault of the SDJSFL, might I add, but the most depressing line out of the meeting was: ‘It’s a popular league as it is, why change?’.

“There are so many reasons to change. The best can get better.

“And with the survey results out of kilt with the room vote - it begs the question: were the best of interests of club members preserved?”

The Bolton, Bury and District Junior League has adopted summer football, with support from Kevin Davies - and 182 teams have so far signed up.