There has been much debate amongst football fans in Jersey on whether it is in a good place or not.
Over the next few days I shall be discussing with various individuals from within the sport here in Jersey the subjet of our game and where we could improve it.
I shall ask the same five questions, and we will see different answers from people in different roles, and most likely with varying opinions.
We kick off with St John’s manager Elliot Powell, an individual who is passionate about the game and gives up hours coaching and developing a new look John’s side.
Here is what Elliot had to say:
What are your honest opinion of Jersey football as a whole currently?
Jersey club football should, in my opinion, be one of the most thriving club football scenes in the UK. We’ve no excuse really when you consider the fact that we have an affluent society, a keen sporting and footballing interest and probably the most easily reachable community around. Unfortunately the infrastructure and support of club football has been neglected to such an extent in recent years that this sudden inclusion of representative opportunities, on a scale of which we have never seen before, has proved to be too much too soon. Players have been taken away from clubs that were already struggling and years of neglect / naïveté in terms of planning for the future means that we are now struggling to fill that void. For example, right at the time when our u18 league has been watered down to 5 teams, clubs are crying out for their junior players to fill the void left in their first teams and reserve teams. This isn’t possible for every club and has left them struggling and having to promote reserve team or even C team players who are less than eager to play 1st team football.
Away from the playing side of things, the lack of referees is clear for all to see. Years of disrespect and poor treatment has turned them away but I can’t help but feel that rather than the “Refs v Clubs” mentality that was created by some, a co-operative forum where both parties could air their views and nip these issues in the bud much sooner before it reached this stage.
Is the emergence of the Jersey Bulls a positive move for football in Jersey?
Yes absolutely the Bulls is a good idea for local football. We’ve been desperate for the next level of opportunities and to add another tier to the pyramid so to speak. There was / is always going to be a period of everyone finding their feet and seeing how it fits in. Have we helped ourselves by allowing 40 odd players be signed for the Bulls? Probably not no but then again is anyone helped by fixtures for the JFA side, the bulls and Premiership sides being placed on the same day? I’d argue no again. The Bulls divides opinion but I think it’s imperative that island football has that type of opportunity for its players, coaches and referees to aspire to. We just need to work out how it fits in best.
How about the league? Is it more or less competitive?
Yes of course the leagues are more competitive when you take out 20 odd of the best players but different clubs will have different views on whether or not that’s a good thing. Clubs like St Paul’s have lost players but it’s actually opened an opportunity for Tony to be brave and play a lot of juniors who may have been limited to reserve team football. On the other hand that club has since had to fold its Reserve team as players have had to move up to fill the void and almost skip out the “Ressies step”
As a neutral who manages outside the Premiership I think it’s much more entertaining that it’s much tighter but that’s probably come at the expense of a higher standard. Without doubt it has led to greater motivation in some areas as people feel like they can win it – hopefully in time that evenness can be maintained but the standard can increase again.
What has your experiences been like so far this season?
I’ve just come back to the island and got back involved in local football. It’s clear to see a drop in standard in all areas in terms of playing, club infrastructure, officiating and even support. I think the JFA have done well to source new sponsorship and the move to combine the JFA and JFC is a positive one. All the media buzz is around the Bulls, the JFA or the PoJ at the moment and it’s potentially saturating the football coverage a bit. It’s important to note that the local game is still the biggest participant sport in the island and we should celebrate and publicise that more. Finances are tight and troubling at clubs, sponsors are even harder to find now and it’s hard to attract them when unlike the old days of JEP / media coverage where they’d get publicity and free advertising there is now very little. It’s great to be going well and shouting about it at the very top. But local club football will always be the pillars that allow that success to happen. Let’s not let them crumble through neglect.
What would you suggest to improve football on the island further, especially in the local league?
There is no quick fix for island club football. For me the immediate issues are a lack of players, a lack of coaches, a lack of officials and a strain financially on clubs. The Referee Development Centre is a fantastic programme and hopefully that will solve one of this issues but people need to be patient and help in the medium term.
Player wise we need to address the drop off rate. How we can have so many clubs and players at a mini / junior level but only 5 teams at an u18 level. We must be losing them somewhere – how can we retain them.
Similarly with coaches, not every coach wants to coach senior football teams which is understandable but there shouldn’t be the drop off from junior to senior coaching that there currently is. The JFA has an army of coaches during evenings at their sessions, could they be used as club coach mentors who help develop the club workforce and constantly push them to the next level.
Finally, financially. There’s a great cost to playing football. Clubs are fighting for facilities etc which are expensive bookings and on top of this they are paying league subscriptions, ground maintenance etc etc. Hopefully greater league sponsorship can help to reduce these costs for clubs and a greater number of facilities will help to bring costs down there too.
Local football often has a doom and gloom mentality but it’s important to realise that we are so lucky in terms of how much we could achieve here due to the affluent nature of Jersey, the facilities that each club has and crucially the captive audience that we can quickly and regularly engage with. Some more joined up thinking between enthusiastic football people locally from a range of backgrounds can help to make this happen.