Dockyard League worried for future

Wicor Mill, in stripes, take on Co-Op Dragons A in the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard League

Wicor Mill, in stripes, take on Co-Op Dragons A in the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard League

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Fears have been raised that a local football league is in danger of closing down in its centenary year.

The Portsmouth Royal Dockyard League was established in 1913 but has been reduced to just two divisions in recent times – despite hosting 60 clubs at the height of its popularity.

This season, just 13 clubs in two divisions started the campaign.

Now genuine worries are growing that 100 years of amateur football could be lost for good.

League secretary, Brian Mill, said: ‘I am probably the most worried about the league’s future I have ever been.

‘It has been a gradual decline over recent years.

‘We went from six divisions to four, to three, to two, back up to three and down to two again.

‘It’s a problem with all Sunday leagues in the area that there just aren’t as many clubs wanting to play.

‘We are struggling.

‘It would be a huge shame if we had to close down. There aren’t that many things in the city now with dockyard connections.

‘I would say it’s about 50-50 that the league will continue at the moment.

‘So we will monitor the situation and discuss things at our next meeting.’

In the wake of this week’s announcement on job losses in shipbuilding, the decline in the numbers of football teams among the workforce has become a by-product throughout the years.

Mill said: ‘When the dockyard was in its heyday, the league was a big thing within the dockyard itself.

‘I worked there for 25 years and the results from the day before would be the main topic of conversation on the Monday morning.

‘It started with 12 clubs back in 1913, which were all dockyard-based, and that went up to the 1950s before it was opened up to teams from outside the dockyard.

‘But the last dockyard team we had was EDU – Emergency Diving Unit – and they finished about 15-20 years ago.

‘All of the well-known teams from down the years like Factory Sports and Ship Fitters have all disappeared.’

Mill also believes the growth of small-sided football has played its part in players choosing an option that requires less commitment.

He said: ‘A lot of people are playing in five-a-side and six-a-side leagues, rather than 11-a-side on Sundays.

‘It’s the ease, I suppose. They turn up, play the game for an hour or so and they go home again.

‘Mind you, a lot of players agree that it’s not quite the same as playing 11-a-side football.

‘It’s a different sort of society these days. There are not as many pubs nowadays where the teams used to come from and not as many pitches available, either.

‘There are more things to do and more people work on a Sunday now.

‘They just don’t have the time to commit to Sunday football as much.’

While Mill believes a possible merger with another league in the area may eventually happen, it would still spell the end of the Dockyard League itself.

‘There may be a possibility of mergers with other leagues in the future but if that happens, it would still be the end of the Dockyard League unfortunately,’ he said.

‘We will have to see what happens.’

n For more information, e-mail Brian Mill at bjsjpc@btinternet.com

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