Final whistle blows on Gainsborough Saturday League
If Saturday afternoon amateur football was a wounded animal, it may be time to put it out of its misery.
This damning assessment of the state of the game in this area comes after two established Saturday football leagues were forced to sound their final whistle.
Earlier this summer the West Lindsey Football League was forced to close due to a lack of teams after 92 years in existence.
And this week, it has been confirmed that the Gainsborough and District Saturday Football League was finished, ending 108 years of history and tradition.
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But Gainsborough League secretary Steve Lilley has called on the declining amateur football fraternity to heed the warning signs and make moves to save their game.
Only five teams confirmed their interest to compete in the Gainsborough league this coming season, which left no choice but to bring the curtain down on more than a century of football.
"If football wanted a wake-up call, they have just had it," said Lilley.
"I am extremely saddened by it, but the decline has been accelerating over the last three or four years.
"I have been secretary of this league for the past 21 years. When I started there were 34 teams, but that number went up to 42 and we had four divisions."
"To be reduced to just five teams makes it impossible to continue at this time."
Lilley, who is also a director of the Lincolnshire Football Association, believes busy modern day lives, the current financial downturn and televised Premier League matches on Saturday lunch times have dealt a heavy blow to Saturday amateur football.
But he also points an accusing finger at the game's elite, and the pampered players in the Premier League.
"Young people need good role models and I'm not sure there are any coming from the world of football anymore," Lilley added. "At the London Olympics, so many other sports have had fantastic publicity, with superb sporting role models emerging like Jessica Ennis and Sir Chris Hoy.
"I don't think this is the case with football any more. The game gets so much poor publicity, youngsters are obviously looking at other activities.
"The days are long gone when a big team like Liverpool comes along to Scunthorpe to buy a Kevin Keegan. Instead, they would go abroad and sign a player already established as an international.
"Your average man in the street just cannot relate to a superstar millionaire.
"There has to be more money coming down from the top to the grass roots – it just has to happen, otherwise I don't see how we will halt this sad decline."
Martin Keeton has been secretary of Retford Town for the past 12 years and has been forced to move the side to the Lincoln League due to the closure of the Gainsborough Saturday League.
"It is depressing," he said. "When I was younger, Saturday afternoons were all about football and you played on a Saturday, because you wanted to progress to the highest level you could.
"You want to play your local football in a local league, but now we will be travelling to Market Rasen, Horncastle, Gainsborough and Lincoln. It's quite spread out.
"I think the decline has come about because people are very often working on Saturdays and playing their football on a Sunday.
"The Sunday football leagues seem to be going well and the midweek six-a-side leagues also seem to be popular.
"We have moved to the Lincoln League and there were nine teams competing, but I believe one team has already pulled out.
"I would love to see a return to a full Gainsborough League with two divisions.
"It's so sad that on a Saturday there are about 12 football pitches not being used on a Saturday afternoon."