Todmorden Borough have folded their reserve team, prompting first team boss John Gilford to raise grave concerns about the future of the sport.
Craig Milne’s seconds made a reasonable start to the season in the West Lancashire League’s Division Two Reserves section but a string of fixtures were called off due to waterlogged pitches and interest among the players waned.
Borough were docked three points for the nonfulfilment of a fixture and slipped to the bottom of the table.
Club officials have now reluctantly pulled the plug.
“We decided it was not worth carrying on,” said Gilford, who confirmed that a lack of players was the main reason but costs had also come into play.
Clubs are fined £70 for nonfulfilment of a game and rather than risk running up a big bill, Borough decided to withdraw - a move which will cost them £150.
Borough Reserves’ record has been expunged from the record.
Gilford said: “Craig fought manfully to keep the team going but he was defeated by a lack of interest.
“He did the job for about three years but it was a thankless task.
“He used 70 players last season and 50 to 60 this time. He was bringing in people he knew from Rochdale and Bacup to make up the numbers but they were not good enough.”
The long-serving Gilford said that when Borough opened their Bellholme clubhouse in 2000 they had started with five teams. Now they were down to one.
“A club like our needs a second team. There are players in Todmorden who are good enough but they can’t be bothered.
“Too many haven’t the heart or desire to play at local level.
“I don’t want to criticise the 11 who turn up every week. It’s the five, six or seven others who can’t put in the effort.”
Gilford said the problem was not confined to Todmorden and made the grim prediction that “football will die.”
Stoneclough had pulled their reserve team out of the same section early this season.
He also knew of one club which had five teams last season and was now struggling to put out one side.
In spite of his pessimism, Gilford hopes a Borough second team will rise from the ashes, possibly playing in the Halifax AFL.
That would help to avoid the time and expense involved with long trips in the West Lancashire League.
“We have spoken about joining a local league. We need a second team,” said Gilford.
“It might mean a step back in terms of facilities, with away games at the likes of Savile Park, but we may need to do it to go forward.”
Gilford said the prospect of derby matches against the likes of Midgley, Hebden Royd Red Star and Calder ‘76 might encourage more players to turn out for the reserves.