Birthday party as League hits big 5-0

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BIRTHDAY celebrations are on the cards for the Morpeth Sunday League, as it will complete its 50th season at the end of the 2011/12 campaign.

The long-standing league started unofficially in 1962 before it was formed officially in 1963 with 11 clubs.

The League has prospered over the years, and became one of the strongest in the county.

At one time, no less than 46 clubs were members, in four divisions.

Teams sprang up all over the region and at one stage there were 11 Morpeth-based clubs in the League, and areas such as Ashington and Newbiggin and Bedlington strengthened the membership.

But the number of teams has dwindled over recent years.

Three years ago, there were 44 clubs spread over four divisions.

This season, which is set to start at the end of August, there is a total of 22 clubs in just two divisions.

League secretary and president, Syd Johnson, said: “The management committee is concerned at the current recession in clubs due to the high cost of running a football club nowadays.

“Sponsorship from pubs and clubs has reduced dramatically, and it seems that players will not put their hands in their pockets, to play as is the case in other sports.”

But he added: “I am looking forward to the 50th season, although it will mean a lot more work for me and the committee.

“There will be several celebratory events during this season, and I hope to see many old faces and I would request anyone who has a Morpeth Sunday League memory to get in touch and I will try to include it in my book, which I hope will be completed by the end of the season.”

Syd has the remarkable record of being at the very first meeting, at The Black Bull, when after a series of friendly matches between half a dozen local scratch teams in 1962, it was decided to start an official league.

At The Black and Grey, on August 13 1963, local businessman Dennis Lewin chaired the meeting, and Syd was asked to remain as secretary, which he had done unofficially in the previous year, and Peter Curtis was elected as treasurer.

Length of service is a hallmark of the Morpeth Sunday League, as current treasurer John Mason has held the financial reins for 48 years, while chairman Ken Gray has been a committee member for well over 40 years, most of that as chairman.

For more information about the league, visit www.morpethsundayleague.org or to speak to Syd about his book, call him on 01670 531224.