WARREN BARLOW'S INSIGHT INTO THE BOLTON, BURY FOOTBALL LEAGUE: Curtain goes down on 2013 and challenges begin for next year

AS one year comes to an end it is an opportune moment to reflect on the past 12 months in the Bolton, Bury and District Football League.

This time last year we had 516 teams competing, which was a record for the league.

It showed a year-on-year growth since it’s creation in 1996 with less than 20 teams.

We currently have 565 teams in action so we have seen a massive increase in membership.

There are around 7,500 players who are training at least once a week and are playing at weekends.

This increase will have to slow down one day, but at the moment the signs are the opposite as behaviour, coaching and facilities improve so the desire to play the game increases.

The FA brought in the player pathway which encourages a stepped process to the game with squad numbers, size of pitch and equipment increasing with age.

This pathway was brought in as a direct result of the success of leagues such as ours.

The FA’s key area for increase in participation is the under-15s level and above. The league currently has more u15s to u18s than it has ever had as we again not only hit targets set for player numbers but we smash them.

We have also seen many good referees move up the referee ladder and promotion to the adult game locally and at semi-pro level regionally.

There are now more referees officiating at levels four and five who started at level nine as 14-year-olds doing mini soccer games in this league.

We also saw our former players representing professional clubs up and down the country including Danny O’Brien who played for Hindsford in our league.

He is at Aston Villa Academy and represented England U17s in a European tournament where he scored two goals.

Our league should have a motto of ‘we can do better’ as all the committee have a passion to continually improve, seek better ways of doing something, increase participation, ability and standards.

We are the first to be criticised if something does not go as planned and we sometimes beat ourselves up over it, hence the desire for continual improvement.

If 2014 can deliver what we want then it will be a superb year with more people playing the game in a wonderful environment for learning, development and fun.

This is our Christmas wish and we want you to come along with us. Have a wonderful Christmas.

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