Non league and grassroots club Westerfield United fold after a 14-0 defeat and 68 goals conceded from 12 games sees players quit.
They were formed in 1920, over 100 years ago in Suffolk, but the result last weekend led to the decision to close having seen four footballer wishing no longer to play for them.
Philip Greenhalgh, who is the Westerfield chairman Philip Greenhalgh, spoke to the BBC, stating a number of other reasons including “player recruitment, financial restraints and brutal defeats”.
At the time of withdrawing, they sat bottom of the Suffolk and Ipswich League Senior Division, which they joined in 1947, sitting bottom of the 2023/24 standings, with three points from 12 games, 1 win, 0 draws and 11 defeats, scoring 7 and conceding 68.
Philip Greenhalgh adds that players opting to possibly watching Ipswich Town following their recent success, instead of playing, is another nail in the coffin for the club.
Ipswich Town currently sit second in the Championship table with 42 points from 18 games played, 13 wins, 3 draws, 2 defeats, 39 goals scored and 24 against, while also being 7 points clear of third place Leeds and a point behind leaders Leicester in what is Ipswich’s first season back in the second tier having been promotion from league One last season (2022/23).
“A lot of people have perhaps chosen to watch Ipswich, as opposed to playing,” he says.
“We’ve got arguably the best facilities in the senior division. We’ve got a pitch to die for, all the facilities are tip-top, we’ve got a bar attached to where we play, an all-weather training area under lights but for some reason, we just can’t seem to get players to the club.”
Tyler Howell, the captain of Westerfield United, adds that former players were gutted to see the demise of the club.
“It’s not been an easy ride but that’s part and parcel of football,” he said.
“Westerfield have always struggled to attract players due to the financial side of things, but we’ve always tried overcoming this with the facilities that are provided.
“It wasn’t just the players to blame as it was an overall lack of commitment and ambition all-round.
“The players express our gratitude to Phil, committee members, volunteers and our former managers Aren and Shaun over recent years who have helped us along our footballing journey.”
Westerfield United won’t be the last club from the SIL to fold, having already waved goodbye to the likes of Bildeston Rangers, Bramford Road Old Boys and Benhall St Mary.
Suffolk and Ipswich League chairman Keith Norton said: “It’s a very difficult time for football… There’ll be a few more clubs [to fold].”
The Covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis also played a big part, but stated: “If two clubs are feeling the pinch, there is no reason why they can’t merge.”
Ipswich Town legend Roger Osbourne – who scored the winning goal in the 1978 FA Cup Final – played for Westerfield United prior to signing for the Tractorboys.
He said, as per East Anglian Daily Times: “It is terribly sad, but because I know the people who are involved with Westerfield I hoped they were going to fold anyway because it was affecting their health.
“If people are worrying about running an amateur football team then that is not good.
“With older people like me, football was one of the few things you could do, but youngsters are spoiled for choice now and sometimes their choice is not to play football.”
Recalling his playing days with Westerfield, he adds: “It meant a great deal to me. It was a good standard. Westerfield would have been in the senior league and the next step up would have been Stowmarket or Felixstowe, but now those teams have moved on to a higher level.”
In September 2022, it was reported that 2,600 clubs at non league and grassroots level had folded with another 8,000 are at risk of closure over the next few seasons.
The challenge facing clubs is striking a balance between remaining financially sustainable while being affordable to fans. Cost of living and the Covid pandemic largely the reasons for the decisions made.
The Price to Play Report asked 1,000 parents of grassroots footballers aged five to sixteen how their football was impacted by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
You can see the findings of that survey by clicking HERE.