This has been a challenging desperate year and more with the Covid-19 pandemic, not just for grassroots football but for all walks of society, not least our local communities.
When outdoor grassroots football returned in September/October 2020 all thoughts were to complete the football season. However, this was not to be as by early November we would enter another Covid Lockdown that was to last through the winter and all grassroots football was cancelled for the foreseeable future!
The short dark winter days dragged on for weeks, then months and it was not until April 2021 that outdoor grassroots football was allowed to restart under strict Government and FA Covid-19 Guidance. Now came one of, if not the biggest challenges to Shropshire Junior Football League in its 47-year history. How, when, what and where could the league implement a fixture programme across all 192 teams from U7 to U16 with development games for U7- U12s and competition fixtures for the U13 – U16s and to finish the season on a high note? With only a few games played last October, the league management took the decision to null and void the league programme and concentrate on a Charity Cup competition. With unquestionable support from Market Drayton Town FC, Shrewsbury Town In The Community (STITC Ludlow Stadium) and The New Saints FC (Park Hall Stadium) they all agreed to host a festival of finals. The next stage was to find three local worthy charities to promote at these three stadium venues – this was not too difficult – SJFL News
Market Drayton Town FC became the FA Heads Up Campaign (rescheduled from 2020) and PRISM Telford Charity Finals – Download the programme here
STITC Ludlow became the Shrewsbury Foodbank Plus Charity Finals – Download the programme here
The New Saints FC became the Oswestry and Borders Foodbank Charity Finals – Download the programme here
Each charity has continued to provide unrivalled support to their communities before and more prevalent throughout the pandemic.
*) FA Heads Up Campaign also became the common theme at all three venues with a short and striking memorable phrase used in advertising
“Imagine if we talked about mental health as much as we talk about football”
*) PRISM Telford (Offers community bereavement support to adults, children and young people, opportunities to process their grief and to be with someone who can emphasise with them. Peer led support, a listening ear, guidance and support. Contact us 01952 872858 or email email@example.com)
We thank you once again for your very generous donation to PRISM, it will be well utilised in serving the clients we support now and in the future.
Maggie Higgins, Trustee, PRISM Telford
*) Shrewsbury Foodbank Plus (Organises and distributes parcels of donated food to individuals and families every week. We aim to help people out of crisis and poverty whether that’s resources, relational or identity and empower clients to enable them to make confident decisions and responses to future challenges they may face. For more information of services provided by Shrewsbury Foodbank Plus please contact Karen Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or website at www.barnabascommunityprojects.org)
*) Oswestry and Borders Foodbank (Every day people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. A simple box of food makes a big difference, with foodbanks helping prevent crime, housing loss, family breakdown and mental health problems. Contact our Foodbank: Phone us: 01691 671940 Email us: email@example.com)
And so the journey began. Whilst the U7 – U9s continued to play development football, the Charity and Consolation Charity Cup for U10s – U16s was now in progress with all games played in Champion League format, then knock out games to reach their respective finals – SJFL News
Having now reached the ‘The Festival Of Finals’ the league pledged £500 to each of the three charities (from league reserves) to add to the gate takings from each venue to donate to the respective sponsored charities, and a staggering £3022 was raised as follows:
*) Market Drayton Town FC (23rd May 2021) – £929 donated to PRISM.
*) STITC at Ludlow Stadium ( 6th June 2021) – £1156 donated to Shrewsbury Foodbank Plus
*) To top the day at STITC Ludlow, The Georgia Williams Trust (GWT) Respect partners to the league also presented the GWT/SJFL Respect Team of The Year award to Oswestry Lions (who had won the U13 Consolation Charity Cup final on penalties!) and then went home with the sponsorship of a new kit for next season from the GWT!
*) The New Saints FC – Park Hall Stadium (13th June 2021) – £937 donated to Oswestry and Borders Foodbank. Read about it here on Oswestry Life. You can also read more on TNS website here plus the Oswestry and Borders Foodbank have more information here.
The league is now preparing for its AGM and looking again to continue with financial support, as previously provided by SJFL during the Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions, to member clubs that provides/enables opportunities for all to play and enjoy grassroots football for the new season – see SJFL News
SJFL is already in early discussion with the three senior clubs that supported the league’s finals to again host a ‘Festival of Finals’ that enable the league to sponsor those hard working local community charities during 2021/22.
Chairman, Shropshire Junior Football League