ONLY days remain to save the Wrexham Sunday Football League.
After 44 successful years in a league that attracted ex-professional footballers like Robbie Savage, Stuart Mason and Dixie McNeil and boasted six divisions 10 years ago, officials will read the last rites at Bersham Social Club next Tuesday if they can’t attract more teams.
League founder Keith Hale spelt out the grim news, blaming the cost to hire council pitches, seven-days-a-week shopping and changing cultures as the main reasons for the significant drop in the number of teams.
“We’re really struggling,” said Hale, who helped set up the league with Alan Jones and Dave Baker back in 1971. “Today is the cut off point for teams to apply for next season and we’ve had only two renewal applications from Cunliffe and Wrexham Lager.
“If we don’t get more than eight teams, then after 44 years of existence, there’s a real chance that the league might not kick off next season.”
Hale is hopeful that six sides currently in the league, Arnolds Sports Bar, White Lion Hope, Railway Rhos, Broughton Villa, Isycoed and Bradley Park, will sign up before next Tuesday’s AGM at Bersham Social Club.
“We’ve lost the Turf and Middle Pub, who are going to set up Saturday teams and we’ve had no other teams apply.
“It’s really sad to think we’ve reached this point but it costs a club so much money - £80 a match - to play. That’s £50 for a council pitch and £30 to pay the referee.
“There are other factors too for the demise of Sunday football. The shops are now open on Sundays and there is so much more football around on a Sunday these days - Premier League, Welsh Premier League and under 18s and 19s.
“If we don’t get eight teams by next Tuesday, I can’t see the league carrying on.”
It’s more than 45 years since a meeting was held in the Gate Hangs High pub in Rhosnesni to persuade the council to open pitches on a Sunday,
By 1972, the league had two divisions plus league cups and the Shelley Cup and after the league joined forces with the South Clwyd Sunday League in 1980, 70 clubs were competing.
One of the founder members were Cunliffe and their secretary Matt Williams said it would be a disaster if the Wrexham Sunday League was forced to fold.
“It would be a disaster,” said Williams. “We’ve just enjoyed our best season ever. We’re mates who play together and that’s what Sunday football’s all about.
“We’ve got a good committee and a great manager in Sam Hassell but I totally understand why teams are packing up.
“The pitch costs went up again and there’s so much other football on offer on a Sunday. The fact that futsal is really popular in Wrexham also plays a part.”
Williams hopes that the league will get a stay of execution, especially for a Cunliffe side that picked up a special award to mark 40 years of consecutive Sunday League football as the oldest Sunday League club in North Wales last year.