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The steady closure of pubs and their football teams

Participation dropping across Britain

icon beer16 September ~ The Seaweed Inn, a squat-looking pub nestled at the foot of some tower-blocks in Southampton, was a decidedly unremarkable boozer. It did, though, boast a formidable football team. With a line-up consisting of several ex-Portsmouth trainees, one player rumoured to have had a stint in Norwich City's reserves and the kind of old-style goalkeeper who still defied the trend for wearing gloves, they had won the Southampton City Commercial Houses Football League Division Two title at a canter.

Visit today and all you'll see on the site of the pub and its long asphalt ribbon car park is Seaweed Close, a wedge of new-build yellow-brick homes and miniature blocks of flats – the kind with paper thin walls which allow every sound to travel throughout the building. Along with many other pubs like it, the Seaweed was erased from the landscape by the shovel of a bulldozer while the name of the football team quietly vanished from the league tables.

According to the real ale group CAMRA, 26 pubs per week are closing. At the same time, participation in football, particularly 11-a-side, is sliding toward its own crisis. Figures from Sport England show that 238,600 fewer people played football at least once a month in April 2012 to April 2013 than for the period October 2007 to October 2008. As the figures do not differentiate between 11-a-side and the more buoyant five-a-side game, the real decline is likely to be much more marked.

Could it be that, as with the Seaweed, the decline of the pub and the decline in participation are linked? The pub provides a focal point for a football club; it is place to recruit players, to meet before a game and somewhere to visit after, to celebrate or commiserate, to analyse the game or to sip a pint while watching the big match on TV. The pub can also provide a team with other support through sponsorship, raffles or a venue to hold the Christmas do and the end-of-season presentation. The fate of pubs and their football teams are therefore intractably entwined.

Of those 26 pubs closing every week some will have football teams which will disappear along with them. Pub football may have been the butt of jokes about drunk centre-backs hoofing it into row Z, but it provides opportunities for many people to participate in the sport at grassroots level, opportunities which are now becoming increasingly more limited. Neil Cotton Row Z Football

On the subject...

Comment on 16-09-2013 11:19:05 by Coral #836085
Broadly agree, but more that pubs and footy declining are for the same reason.

I have played Sunday League for 10 or so years and none of the teams I have played for are pub teams, and few of the teams I play against are. My own personal view for the decline in football is a) lack of places to play, for a decent price. b) lack of kids coming through who have played football and want to carry on. c) more linked into pubs, the different ways life are led now. I travel a lot on weekends so don't play so much footy. Friends have kids and the man is more involved with the up bringing (perhaps a sterotype, but is my experience of how things have changed).

While CAMRA do note that 26 pubs a week close, they don't mention how many open. The pubs that are closing tend to be the community hub types, where as the ones that are opening are the pack em in and make em drink till their sick types. But these pubs have some attached football teams . The point is the local population sticking together and knowing one another is fading away. That has taken the pub and to an extent local football teams away. I think the way people now interact and spend their time has caused playing footy and pub to decline. I don't think it has caused the pub to decline that has caused the football to decline. They are symptoms of the same cause.
Comment on 20-09-2013 15:47:52 by jfp #837458
Generally 11 a side football is dying because of a complete lack of help and support from County FA's.
I help run a successful Saturday league in West Oxon and the Oxon FA have given us sweet FA in terms of handout's / grants over the last gawd knows how many years. All the money is being thrown at Futsal/kids/ladies whilst adult men can go whistle dixie.
We dont want thousands, even a few footballs or first aid kits would not go amiss.
The OFA have somewhere in the region of 1/4 million stashed in the bank why gone spread it amongst the clubs they are there to provide football.
And if only 1/4 of 1% of the Sky money was fed down to Grassroots it would make a huge difference

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