Demise of Melton Sunday Football League marks end of a proud history

Wrighty's XI claimed the Melton Sunday League Knockout Cup in what proved to be the league's swansong. EMN-180609-182041002

The start of a new season has marked the end of an era as it begins without the Melton and District Sunday Football League.

The league has struggled to attract teams for much of the last decade and several appeals had tobe made to save it extinction.

Melton Sunday Football League committee members and players after being told they could no longer use the Redwood Avenue pitches for league matches EMN-180609-182126002

But officials were finally forced to pull the plug when only one team showed interest.

League secretary Vinny Musson and his partner Ishabel Granger, the league’s latest chairman, were also forced to put the league duties to one side after the birth of their first baby last September.

The couple had successfully fought to save the league in the 2016/17 season when teams were thrown off the Redwood Avenue pitches after Melton Council’s decision to knock down the ageing changing facility.

After several weekends without football, the league did complete the season and started a new campaign in 2017/18, but Vinny and Ishabel were unable to find anyone to replace them.

Vinny said: “We said we would see if we could juggle football and child, but we couldn’t.

“As a result we told teams at Christmas that we would not be continuing to run the league and asked if anyone else would, but we couldn’t find anyone who would or could so there was no other option.”

Kevin Wright, who runs Wrighty’s XI, sounded out teams ahead of the new season, but several sides moved to the Grantham League instead.

Despite the league’s struggles in recent seasons, Melton league football has a proud history, with the original Saturday league boasting enough teams to support two strong divisions.

As well as covering the league as Melton Times sports editor, Colin Moulds also had two spells in the Saturday league as a player in the 1960s and 1970s for Colston Bassett and Scalford Rangers.

Neither of these villages, like many more, field teams any more, and it this decline which helped bring about the league’s demise.

“Most villages had a team and at its peak there were about 20 competing, although some of the pitches were a bit rough,” Colin said.

“There was very little junior football in those days so if you wanted to play it was straight into a senior side.

“It was a tough baptism, but it gave you a good grounding and enabled me to move up to play in goal for Melton OGs in the Senior League.

“I also played in the Melton Sunday League right from its formation and it’s sad to see its demise.”

Colin believes cultural shifts and greater choice are contributing factors in the troubles of grassroots senior football.

“Junior football is still very popular, but the senior version has seen a steady decline,” he added.

“Maybe it’s because there are so many more sports available these days, while in the 60s it was usually football winter and cricket summer.

“Or is it because people would rather go down the pub and watch football on Sky rather than play?

“Whatever the reason it’s a great pity local leagues have disappeared.”

More from Sport