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Blackburn football league looks to bridge the gap
A LOCAL football league has been given special sanctions from the Lancashire FA to run an U19s division to help bridge the gap between junior and senior football.
The Blackburn Sunday League will expand to include the new age group from next season with an aim of helping to halt the number of young players being lost to the game.
The aim is also to encourage long-established junior clubs to join the ranks of senior football.
It is believed the division is the first of its kind in the county.
“The league is doing this to try and ease the step up to senior football as we all know this is a difficult age in terms of development,” said Bill Maynard, league fixture and results secretary.
“Those who are late developers are lost to the game because they feel they are not ready to step to senior football.”
The LFA have backed the move and its league development officer, John Treacy, has already held several meetings with Blackburn Sunday League officials and club representatives.
Other leagues have already looked at bringing in an U21s division – which is part of a national FA initiative – but Blackburn Sunday League officials believe even that gap is too big.
“There is definitely a gap in the step up to open age football and players at this level still have a lot of development, both physically and mentally to cope with the demands of senior football.
“This move is not just about players but also to try and keep long established clubs in junior football to move up in to senior football and so far we are receiving very positive feedback.”
He added: “The more players and teams we can encourage to stay in the game at grassroots level helps the game grow stronger.”
The Blackburn Sunday League currently has three senior divisions and atttracts teams from across Blackburn, Hyndbur, Haslingden and Rawtenstall.
It would welcome teams from further afield for the new age group.
The league is also looking to obtain sponsorship for the divisiion to help reduce costs while funding from the LFA may be available to help get the project up and running.
Maynard believes the introduction of the division will be a stepping stone between junior and senior football and help safeguard grass roots football in the long term.
“We have targeted the 2013/14 season so that we can hopefully encourage the under 18s teams for the present season prepare their set-up and teams for the natural progression to under 19s football.
“With this in mind we are working closely with John Treacy at the Lancashire FA so that we can look at ways to help any clubs interested in joining such an age group.”
If the scheme is a success, other leagues across the region could look to make a similar move to keep young players in football.
“As a management committee we have to look to the future lifeline of our league and also keep the flow of young players and teams constand from junior football in to senior ranks,” added Maynard.
“Such a league also helps in bringing younger people in to our league and also create younger blood for the committee in the future.
“As a league our aim is to provide good, healthy competition, expand our community links but, more importantly, keep youngsters interested in football for they are the future in keeping grass roots football healthy.”
For more details, contact Bill Maynard on 07813 733595 or email email@example.com
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