Chairperson Derek Murr has highlighted that the Essex Walking Football League is looking for new players, teams and volunteers around the county as part of ambitious expansion strategy when the 2020 campaign gets underway in March.
The league was formed in November 2016 and has grown to 33 teams in 2019, with a further rise in team levels expected for Season 2020. It’s a project Derek is very proud of, though he admits the existing committee will need to be strengthened in proportion if future plans for female provision, more regionalisation and referee development are to come to fruition.
“First and foremost, Walking Football is about enjoying yourselves with like-minded people, becoming more mobile, increasing your physical fitness and expanding your social circles,” explained founder member Derek, part of a three-man Management Committee alongside colleagues Terry Buck and Peter Osborne.
“We’re here to provide competitive opportunities and we don’t promote a ‘win at all costs’ attitude. That said, I believe we’re still attracting good clubs and teams. The levels of refereeing have ensured that standard is kept very high and we expect this to be maintained.”
Derek reported that, with such a wide geographical area to cover and relatively few teams as the competition is still fairly new, traveling times for ‘away’ teams have proven to be a challenge they’re working to resolve: “From day one we decided there wasn’t going to be any one central location. But Essex is a big county, so there was always the possibility of long journeys.”
“Our Over 65s and 50s have split into North and South Divisions, so this has meant less travelling for both players and referees. It’s hoped we can do the same for the Over 60s. The 60s and 65s fixtures are usually played during the week and the Over 50s during the weekends but we’d like to expand the Over 50s to weekday evenings too.”
Depending on the recruitment of more teams and volunteers, Derek reveals the league have aspirational plans. These include continuing work on referee development in conjunction with the Essex County FA, who are also advising on the full integration of The FA’s online Full-Time and Whole Game System portals to make the collation of results and administration simpler.
“We’d also like to organise either a league strictly for women or expand the current league structure so it caters for mixed genders,” he relayed. “But we need more volunteers. We already really need a Referee Appointments Secretary by the start of Season 2020 to oversee the recruitment, development and appointment of officials to our matches and tournaments.”
Derek appreciates the dedicated trio of individuals who’ve helped to organise the league on a week-to-week basis and develop it to its present position but, with a significant number of roles being filled on a temporary basis, new blood is desperately needed: “We’re looking for others to take on some of these roles, particularly as we all are expecting further expansion.”
Meanwhile, the league have played several representative team fixtures against the Birmingham County West Midlands League and a Kent League side. They’re also aiming to organise a Football Association-affiliated Walking Football Leagues annual event at St George’s Park in Burton-upon-Trent, which they hope will take place sometime in early 2020.
Visit www.essexwalkingfootballleague.org if you’d like to join the Essex Walking Football League as a player, team or volunteer. Walking Football information can also be found by following @EssexCountyFA on Twitter and by searching for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.