Football in crisis - where have all the parks players gone? | Simon Carter

In one way, football has never been more popular in this country. Sadly in another, it’s never fallen more out of fashion.Perhaps the two are linked by an organisation that celebrated its 10,000-day anniversary on new year’s day, 2020.

Sunday, 12th January 2020, 1:00 pm
SLIDING: Where have all local leagues gone?

At the very highest level, the public’s insatiable demand for Premier League games could soon reach a new peak.

There is a very good chance the league’s average attendance in 2019/20 could top the 39,000 barrier for the first time in English football history.

The current record is the 38,776 average recorded in 1948/49 – the season Pompey were champions of England. The average Fratton Park crowd that term was 37,082 – about double today’s capacity. Days of miracle and wonder indeed.

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Back to the present day and football at the very lowest level, though, tells a different tale entirely.

As a nation, have we fallen out of love with actually playing the game ourselves? I’m not talking about kids’ football here, I’m more concerned about the adult version.

A recent story in The News told how Rowner Rovers are one of just 11 clubs in the Mid Solent League on Saturday afternoons. In a region as big as this, though, they had been forced to put out social media appeals for new players.

I’ve always believed Portsmouth was a ‘football’ city. Certainly that’s true for supporting the local team, but the title is laughable in terms of pulling on a pair of boots on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.

A decade ago, the Mid-Solent’s predecessor – the Portsmouth League – boasted almost 40 clubs. Go back a few more decades and the league was even bigger, seven divisions in the early ’80s, for example. You also had the North End League and the Dockyard League. Both have now faded into memory.

Perhaps those men who used to play at weekends on PO postcode parks pitches are still in love with Pele’s beautiful game, but they now prefer to watch Premier League* games on Sky instead. If that’s the case, it’s a shame. Portsmouth is no different to anywhere else, though and that’s a crying shame.

*10,012 days old today.

Pencil case: Are cassettes really making a comeback?

If you’re a certain age, you’ll remember the music cassette – and how, in the ’80s, the rise of the Sony Walkman saw them outstrip vinyl records in popularity.

Aaah, the thrill of recording the top 40 on to a blank cassette and sticking a pencil into one of the holes to rewind the spool when things went awry.

You’ll also remember how CDs heralded their demise.

In 2019, though, cassette sales totalled 80,404 – just 0.1 per cent of overall recorded music consumption, granted, but sales have risen for seven years in a row. The 2019 total was the highest since 99,636 were shifted in 2004.

That noise you hear is the lid on the coffin being slowly scraped back...

Time to get those pencils.

We’ve bred a generation who will never delight in books

It is a depressing statistic but one which, unfortunately, didn’t come as a shock to me at all. A survey from the National Literary Trust found 6.3 per cent of pupils aged between nine and 18 do not own books.

I couldn’t tell you when my two kids – both teenagers and both academically bright – last read a book without being told to. And bearing in mind I have shelves straining under the weight of hundreds of books, that saddens me.

I guess the internet and smartphones are the reasons why fewer children than ever read these days.

Though technology has obviously enhanced our lives in so many ways, if it is at the expense of our children reading I remain unconvinced it is a fair swap.