One of Southampton’s major grass roots football leagues has folded – just a year short of its 50th anniversary.
The Southampton & District Sunday Football League will not be running in 2014/15 after a paltry nine teams wanted to sign up for it.
In its heyday, the league – formed in 1965 – boasted more than 55 teams and five divisions.
That was seven years ago and since then it has been in decline.
Last season saw its lowest point, with just two leagues and, by the end of the season, only nine teams involved. Those remaining nine teams have been placed in the City of Southampton Sunday League for the next season, except for AFC Allbrook who will be playing in the Winchester League. There will be no 11-a-side football.
However, the league will attempt to set up in some form at Millbrook’s Goals Soccer Centre as a five-aside league for under-21s.
They will then attempt reform for the 2015/16 season – if there is enough demand.
“We were hoping to get to the 50th anniversary but we knew we were going struggle to get enough teams,” said league assistant secretary Greg Dickson.
“After one team had gone before the season finished, we were down to nine teams and we decided we would put the league on hold.
“Play has been suspended for now.
“It is sad but I would hope we can return the season after next.”
Steve Winter, manager of Division One side Otter FC, has been involved in the league as a player and a manager for over two decades.
“It’s the end of an era,” he said.
“I’ve been involved in the league for a long time, so I’m really disappointed.
“We’ve moved over to the City of Southampton League but we were left with no choice.
“It was becoming impossible for everyone. Teams were playing each other four or five times per season. For the players that just doesn’t cut it.
“When I first started playing there was five or six divisions and over the years it’s dwindled in numbers.
“The people involved have done it proud but they haven’t been able to stop its decline.
“Youngsters just aren’t interested in getting up on a Sunday morning anymore.
“They’d rather be going out the night before.
“Rain or shine, we used to get up (on a Sunday morning) but this is a different generation and the league has suffered because of that.”
A Hampshire FA statement regarding the case stated: “We are fully aware of the situation and still wait official confirmation.”
The county FA were keen to stress this is a stand-alone case and not something that reflects grassroots football across Hampshire as a whole.