Adult Football’s Biggest Problem

I get a phone call on Thursday night, “Sorry Simon we have to forfeit the game on Saturday as we can’t raise a side”. The conversation that follows is a discussion between two secretaries of adult football clubs (step 7) who share the frustration of trying to get a side out each week, player commitment & availability is at an all time low.

Almost every club secretary I’ve spoken to this season has complained about this issue, irrespective of whether they’re challenging toward the top of the league or struggling at the bottom.

One secretary said to me, “It’s almost like they’re doing you the favour by playing”. Another said, “They’re not available one weekend and then moan and ask why they’re on the bench when they return the following week”.

I read some information from the FA a few years back that showed the number of players dropping out of the adult game, it was in the region of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, per year and you wonder why that is.

Is football too serious for some? I see 6-a-side leagues cropping up everywhere and they seem to be full of teams. Perhaps players prefer the more relaxed nature of 6-a-side to the more competitive Saturday football.

When I was 18 I would be delighted with 10 minutes in the first team, happy to wait on the bench until given the chance and then desperate to show what I could do in those 10 minutes. These days, players say “I’d rather stay in the reserves and play 90 minutes”, it’s all changed.

When you look at team’s having issues with player availability, volunteers being hard to come by for support behind the scenes and teams folding regularly you realise that adult football at this level has a problem and something needs to change to address it.

Maybe people today have too many options available to them or maybe the idea of being committed and fighting toward something isn’t as valued today as it was in yesteryear.

I don’t know how clubs fix it, or what needs to change to address the situation but all I see next season is more teams struggling, more teams dropping out and leagues getting weaker as a result.