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Following a disappointing response to the letter sent by Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, and Cllr Derek Long, Leader of St Helens Council, regarding the decision to expel a merged Knowsley and St Helens youth team from a local league, the two Council leaders have again appealed for a rethink.
The English Schools FA had replied to the letter sent on Thursday, 10 January, stating that they would not overturn their decision to disallow the creation of a merged team, representing Knowsley and St Helens Schools FAs, after the Knowsley team began to struggle to recruit enough players to field a full team.
This still leaves the Knowsley players unable to field a team, mid-way through the football season, and is a bitter blow to these young players, as well as the volunteer coaches and others who have been giving up their time to support the team.
The two Council leaders have now made another appeal to the English Schools FA to find “a solution that will ensure youngsters in Knowsley and St. Helens are able to continue to take part in a competitive activity they love”.
The letter in full:
Dear Ms Chiltern (Chief Executive, English Schools Football Association),
Thanks for your letter and the prompt response to the concerns we expressed with you in our correspondence dated 10 January.
I am sure it will come as no surprise to learn of our disappointment at the outcome of your appeals process. Whilst we understand the constitutional limitations we do feel that the human impact of your decision appears to have been overlooked. In particular, our plea for you to take a … “step back from the position which has been taken and look at it from the perspective of those young people who have been affected so negatively” regrettably, seems to have been ignored.
In your two page letter and associated appeal report you fail, at any point in time, to note the impact on the young people involved. I wouldn’t have thought it necessary to point out to an organisation such as yours the benefits of engaging young people in football. Benefits that reach way beyond the individual but to the family and the community as a whole, both now and in the future. Consider the physical and mental health benefits, ability to build relationships, confidence and to help instil discipline and focus. In a generation facing some of the most significant social and financial challenges we have ever witnessed, activities like football are even more important than ever.
What’s more, in recognising the issue and the overwhelming concern expressed by parents and the community at large, you do not propose a solution that will ensure youngsters in Knowsley and St. Helens are able to continue to take part in a competitive activity they love. Simply waiting until next season – isn’t an option. I feel that, as the governing body of School football in England, you have a duty of care to our young people. Without a team to be part of, I have no doubt that some of the affected youngsters will disengage and the interest and commitment of some of our most able footballers will be lost.
As community leaders we see first-hand the importance of grass roots football which not only supports the development of our most able players but also the focus and drive it helps to instil in the whole team. At a time when local authorities are unable, due to harsh funding cuts, to create as many diversionary opportunities as we would like for our young people it seems even more unfair for this decision to be taken. Surely there has to be a solution.
You have the commitment of us both to support you in any way we can as we feel this is simply too important to ignore.
We will leave you with a quote lifted directly from the FA website which I think sums up our thoughts.
“Football has so many benefits, look beyond the score line. Only one team can “win” the league, but every player can “win” through football, whether that’s making friends, improved confidence, developing leadership skills or achieving something they never thought they could. The right team, with the right coach, in the right environment means every player can “win”!
Please help us make that possible for our players in Knowsley and St. Helens.
Councillor Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council
Councillor Derek Long, Leader of St Helens Council