SIL chairman says clubs must decide their own destiny as participation continues to drop

PUBLISHED: 12:45 23 December 2016 | UPDATED: 15:04 23 December 2016

SIL chairman, Keith Norton

SIL chairman, Keith Norton

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Suffolk & Ipswich Football League chairman Keith Norton has urged its struggling members to determine their own destiny.

A general malaise in society and a lack of commitment from players are just two of the factors being blamed, with several clubs struggling to field teams to fulfil fixtures.

However, there have also been calls to scrap the competition’s Intermediate Leagues, which were initially set-up for clubs to field reserve sides.

That initially proved competitive, but the abolishment of the “Senior Status Rule”, which prevented Senior League players turning out in anything other than the Intermediate divisions, has seen reserve teams fold – three so far this season – as players move elsewhere for better competition.

Intermediate League teams cannot win promotion to the Senior League, whereas clubs from Divisions Four through to One can. At the weekend, the co-founder of Coplestonians, Dave Little, challenged the league to be proactive, take positive action and said the introduction of reserve sides into the existing league set-up was the only way forward.

Responding to that, Mr Norton said: “Everything will be decided at the next AGM.

“This (Intermediate League debate) was brought up at the last two regional meetings. “We asked league clubs what they wanted; Did they want the reserve teams to be integrated into the general league or did they not? Both times they voted to continue as it was.

“Should the clubs vote for change, it would not be considered, it would be categorically introduced, the league would have no option.

“It’s up to the clubs to tell us what they want to happen.”

Almost 20 teams have folded in the last decade and clubs are finding it hard to put sides together on a weekly basis – Senior Division giants, Grundisburgh and Ipswich Valley Rangers all having fallen on hard times in recent seasons.

“It’s down to the players not wanting to play,” insisted Norton, “And it’s the case across the board, it’s not just an SIL problem, we are seeing sides fold in the Essex & Suffolk Border League, the Essex Olympian League.

“I think we need to ride the storm.

“I have spoken to a person at one of the struggling clubs and asked ‘what can we do to help?’ They said ‘Find us more players’.

“Where are we going to get them from?

“If you look at the teams that have folded, of the players that were registered, the vast majority have not registered anywhere else.”

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