Bright future remains for Sunday soccer

LOCAL SOCCER: There is hope for the future of Sunday soccer says Paul Butcher, manager of Kirton United.He wants to put the record straight after I slammed the state of the Sunday game in last week's column.

By Elvin King


THERE is hope for the future of Sunday soccer says Paul Butcher, manager of Kirton United.

He wants to put the record straight after I slammed the state of the Sunday game in last week's column.

Despite the increase in red and yellow cards and a steady decline of referees willing to put up with all the aggro, Paul retains his faith in Sunday soccer.

"I accept that not every Sunday club is well run, and not every player behaves himself as he should," he explained.

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"But you can say the same thing about Saturday soccer as well."

Working at Felixstowe Dock means that 48-year-old Paul is unable to have any connection with Saturday football other than as a spectator.

And he admits that there are a few aspects of the Saturday game that he would like to see included on Sundays, like assistant referees and better facilities for clubs playing in the top divisions.

Paul has been running Kirton for seven years, and has tasted considerable success, bringing them up from the Sixth Division to the Premier Division.

In that time they won the Third Division championship, and were runners-up in Divisions Six, Five and Two. Kirton also won the Sunday Morning League Cup in 2000/01.

Paul has experience of Saturday football, having played for Kirton, Bucklesham, Alan Road and Martlesham. He also had trials with Ipswich Town as a teenager.

"Both Kirton and Bucklesham have Sunday sides still running, while their Saturday sides have folded," added Paul, who played for 26 years. "That must say something.

"I admit it would be nice to be involved with a Jewson League-style of football, but that is not possible on Sundays."

Has he got an answer to the dwindling number of referees and the increase in disciplinary cases?

"The game would not survive without referees, and we have to look after them," he said.

"At Kirton we try to ensure that they enjoy their morning. We try and encourage them.

"We had one piece of trouble with a referee, and a player was sent off although the fine was reduced on appeal.

"We also had one or two players who let us down last season. We got rid of them, and now have people who are reliable."

Of the 30 players on Kirton's books, 23 play regular Saturday soccer, some with senior clubs Grundisburgh and Melton St Audry's.

Paul listed the efforts Kirton put in to make Sunday mornings pleasurable. "You only get out what you put in," he said.

"We have tea and coffee available to the match official before the start, and also hand him his match fee. There are refreshments at one of our sponsors' after the match for referee and opposition.

"We have raised a lot of money for charity, and with sponsorship help have acquired five new kits in recent seasons. New changing rooms should be ready for next season."

The efforts have paid off as in seven years Kirton have never played a game without a proper referee.

They were runners-up in the First Division Fairplay League last season, and are currently top of the Premier Division – showing that you can combine success with good behaviour.

"Our aim is to win the title having finished eighth last season – our first season in the top flight," added Paul.

"But I watched St Clements on Sunday and they will take some stopping."

If all Sunday clubs tackled things the same way as Kirton, the outlook for the well-being of Sunday soccer would be far brighter.

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