The Cold End is very sad to report another local Sunday League has unfortunately folded. The Welywn & Hatfield Sunday League started out in 1960 but after finding things tough over the last few years the decision has been taken to fold the league. In a very passionate and honest open letter Chairman John Spavins explains the outcome which is kindly reproduced with permission of Neil Metcalfe at the Welwyn Hatfield Times.
"In those formative seasons and up to the millennium everything was growing, more often than not. We had five divisions of twelve teams each. Players showed commitment for a season, not just the weeks it suited them and players and officials had less distractions. Sunday work was rare, sometimes overtime to pay for Christmas or the summer holidays. Other than football there was really only fishing as an alternative pastime. You certainly couldn’t go out and buy anything other than bread, milk or a newspaper. Pubs closed at 10.30pm or 11pm so, even after a skinful, players could easily get up and play.
THE ROSEY OF THE WELWYN & HATFIELD SUNDAY LEAGUE TAKE ON WHITEBRIDGE ROVERS OF THE EAST HERTS CORINTHIAN LEAGUE IN THE HERTS FA SUNDAY INTERMEDIATE CUP IN 2016
Local councils were run for the people, adequately staffed and facilities reasonable priced. Factories and other employers had active sports and social clubs, many with superb facilities. Pubs were more than happy to ‘bung a few quid’ into having a pub team, and players happily went back to the pub afterwards, win, loose or draw, often with the opposition.
Then came modern life. Sunday working was often not just a welcome opportunity but now a scheduled routine. People can go and do virtually anything they wish. Pubs are open to midnight or longer and the only reason to leave before closing is to move on to another venue that remained open even longer. Many players think they can get up and play to a reasonable standard on top of that although few were actually able to demonstrate it.
Players are these days happy to take a new kit or other sponsorship, and then go away straight after their match, or, go to a different pub because TV scheduling meant they could watch premiership games, or even go to matches scheduled to suit the commercial world of television sponsorship.
Some of those pubs have gone, or current landlords do not wish football teams to be based with them. Clubs used to sign 16-20 players and breeze through a season. Now 35 or more are required to ensure 12 are available on Sundays. Then, 5-a-side, 6-a-side, 7-a-side, became available five, six or even seven days a week. Local councils ‘outsourced’ to commercial operations and prices soared, while the level of service declined to the point that volunteers were required to carry out some tasks to keep charges to an absolute minimum.
THE ROSEY v SHAMROCK ROVERS RESERVES IN 2015 - A GAME WHICH THE HOME SIDE WON 9-1
Those employers are gone, their facilities are now under car parks or people's back yards and others have just wasted away. The North London and South Herts, Waltham and Stevenage Sunday leagues fell first, there will be others.
Macron WHSFL had things in place others dream of or couldn’t be bothered with. This last season has seen a return to the significant coverage previously enjoyed in the local press, supported every week by some excellent photography from Andy Todd.
There was professional medical cover at a tiny price at KGV, for which we thank Elaine, Craig & Gavin from A+E Medical Services. We had first class and easy-to-manage fees collection and invoice payment through Book-Me-On; we thank Jamie for this service. Then there was social media, abused by the few, enjoyed by the many; player's photo ID preventing, if not totally eliminating, ringers or more organised cheating; electronic results and team-sheets which saved time and enabled full press round-ups; reduction in the frequency of meetings.
THE 2016 DIVISION ONE CUP FINAL BETWEEN BRADMORE ROVERS 2014 AND THE ROSEY
Sadly, we could not offer taxi services or boot cleaning, only provide large buckets players could wash their own in. Clearly all that wasn’t enough. The football was played to international rules, on pitches marked out within the National FA guidelines, and teams (when numbers permitted) were placed in multiple divisions of near equal ability.
Registered referees were appointed to most matches. They were certainly not perfect, neither were the players and what right does a Sunday morning player have to expect, even demand, a higher standard than seen on MOTD week in, week out. The allegation that WHSFL was rubbish is clearly an armchair commentary by those not appreciating what it takes to run a league or actually take part.
THE GROVE v HATFIELD SENIORS - 2017
It is no secret that I wished to have a minimum of three divisions in order to provide football across the ability span, but as numbers declined five became four, four became three, three became two, and, last year, two became one.
Let me make it quite clear, the officers of the Macron WHSFL did not fold the league. The raft of teams that failed to attend a crucial meeting caused its folding. Players themselves also have to accept their share of the blame in that cause of folding. With growing, inaccurate, negativity on social media, existing clubs were unable to continue, Welwyn Hatfield became unsaleable; who in their right mind would start a new team or move an existing team here?
SEPTEMBER 2013 SAW WELWYN CAMPUS COME BACK FROM 2-0 DOWN TO RECORD A 3-2 WIN VERSUS EIGHT BELLS IN A DIVISION TWO CUP GAME
We thank the numerous sponsors and partners we have worked with over the years, and of course, most recently Macron Store Hertfordshire. You produced many double and treble winning teams, won all the various County Cups, the Sunday National Cup, took the County Inter-League title numerous times, took some hammerings, but still came back for more. To all those who worked so hard with me over the years, and right back to 1960, including those no longer with us, I say thank you, and I promise I will do all I can to ensure that it is not all forgotten. There are some thoughts going into running a competition(s) to keep alive the name, along with those memories and achievements. Watch this space."
(for, and on behalf of the former Macron Welwyn Hatfield Sunday Football League)
Here are two lots of highlights from games in 2013 and 2016 from the league that The Cold End filmed.
WELWYN CAMPUS v EIGHT BELLS - DIVISION TWO CUP 2013
DIVISION ONE CUP FINAL 2016 - BRADMORE 2014 v THE ROSEY