MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE IN THE LEAGUE
A LOOK BACK AT THE CHANGES SINCE WE KICKED IN THE 21ST CENTURY
As we head into the festive season for 2023 and with no further fixtures until the New Year, I have taken a look back at how we have changed since the turn of the century.
It does not make for good reading, but on the other hand as a League we have more than held our own against what has been developing elsewhere and not just in our County, so maybe it is not all doom and gloom.
A great number of people comment to me that football is not what it used to be, but I have charted what I see as the changes for us since we turned into the 21st century.
Grass roots football at our level just outside the grading system has been hit badly by many factors, and faces a long winding road to maintain its current status. In the year 2000 the Devon & Exeter League had a membership of nearly 140 teams, but 23 years on that is now down to 104 with just 57 of that number being first teams compared to around 80 first teams in 2000.
Of course a number of our top clubs since then have moved into higher pastures some of which were non existent in those days, or moved back into Leagues within their area of Devon, so maybe Ive taken a look at the 1999-2000 Premier division and it makes interesting reading.
Premier 2000 ended with 15 teams having started with 16.
The Champions that year were Buckland Athletic Res, and they along with the first teams of Feniton, Okehampton Argyle, and Exeter University now ply their trade at Step 7 or higher.
Budleigh Salterton Res, Hatherleigh Town, St Martins, Seaton Town, and Witheridge have all slipped back into our Senior divisions for various reasons.
Culm United (who withdrew), Dawlish Villa, Exeter Civil Service, Pinhoe, Exeter St Thomas, and Exmouth Amateurs have since all disappeared from the scene.
So that just leaves Sidmouth Town Res as the one Premier team from the 1999-2000 season still in our top flight. Not something I had expected, and I doubt even the vikings like me will have realised that.
As far as our other current Premier division occupants are concerned, Alphington were in the Devon League, Exeter University Res and Elmore Res were in Senior 1, Clyst Valley, Colyton, Crediton United Res and Lapford in Senior 2, Kentisbeare and Winkleigh in Senior 3, Okehampton Argyle Res in Intermediate 1, Upottery in Intermediate 2, Sandford in Intermediate 3, and last but not least Lyme Regis were still in the Perry Street League. I doubt anyone would have forecast this combination meeting up in Premier yhis season.
Back to our current membership In the Senior and Intermediate there have been numerous changes we have plenty of teams still with us but there are so many clubs especially at village level where football seems to have been ditched.
Will we see the return of Chulmleigh, Culmstock, Follygate, Offwell, Newton Poppleford, Northlew, Sidbury United, Silverton, Woodbury, Woodbury Salterton all prominent teams as we turned the century. There are loads more pre 2000 and since but the above were with us at this time.
I am sure many will have reasons for the drop in numbers. My personal sadness is with the lack of coverage in local newspapers, which seem to concentrate only on far higher sports levels especially football when in days gone at least a couple of pages were devoted to the game. There is nothing as exciting as seeing your name in the local press.
Many will also feel that people have far more interests nowadays and that has watered down the desire to play the game or help run it but maybe that will all change in years to come.
I am also hopeful that our fellow Devon Leagues will improve in numbers in future years. We need the competition generated with the Devon County cups activity, so here’s wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and without doubt a Happy New Year and maybe some upward and much needed optimism.
Wednesday 20th December 2023