Fives quit league after mass brawl

First published in Sport

FIVES Athletic have resigned from the Bridgewater Manchester League as part of a stance against indiscipline on the field after a 22-man brawl forced their last match to be abandoned.

The Harriet Street club, which was formed in 1968, are still in business but will not field a team again this season.

They plan to resume playing, either at open age or youth-team level, next season.

Club secretary John Cootes said the indisipline of a number of players had put the club’s committee in a position where they had no alternative but to quit the league.

“It was a very, very painful decision,” he said. “I have been associated with the club for 45 years and it’s paramount that we protect our reputation. The club is still alive, we haven’t folded, the committee is still there and the pitch is still there.”

Cootes said the club held an emergency committee meeting last Wednesday to discuss the ugly scenes that forced Fives’ match against AFC Bury on February 16 to be abandoned with just two-and-a-half minutes to go.

He added: “In keeping with the RESPECT initiative – we decided to impose club suspensions on quite a few of our players. That meant we did not have enough players to field a team against Wilmslow Albion on Saturday. We asked the league to give us a bit of leeway but they said that, because we had sufficient players registered, we could have played the game.

“I don’t blame the league in any way, shape or form. The Manchester League is an excellent league run by very good people.

“We just needed a bit of leeway – a week or two’s grace. The league felt we could have fulfilled the fixture but we were determined not to play these players. We had to make a stand.”

Although the brawl with AFC Bury, who were winning 4-0 at the time, prompted the Fives committee to take the steps which led to their resignation, Mr Cootes said there had been an underlying disciplinary problem.

“We’ve had players getting booked and sent off and just not paying their fines,” he said. “We’ve paid a high price for taking a stand against these players but we believe we’ve done the right thing.

“We were just not prepared to tolerate the bad behaviour of our players. The majority of the lads are okay but a few bad apples have put us in this position.

“Hopefully, we’ll start again next season in some shape or form – with a youth team or open age team again – and in the meantime we aim to let the pitch out locally.”

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