In the latest look at local football in Jersey, I caught up with Andy Bradshaw, a well respected individual within the game on the island.
Here is what he had to say:
What are your honest opinions of football in Jersey at the moment?
Jersey football continues to struggle to attract and retain the scores of players who are being coached well on a regular basis in the junior sections. Competition is healthy in football up to the under-16 age group, but it then drops drastically to just five under-18 teams this season. This results in few games for the participants, unless they are talented enough to be offered games in a club’s senior team. The less talented participants leave the game because they don’t want to be on the receiving end of big scores and it’s those players who are lost to the 11-a-side game, as they move to five and six-a-side leagues which are thriving. Women’s 11-a-side football is in a similar place, coaches are working extremely hard offering the game to those still at school and there are signs of many teenagers now taking the pathway into senior football. The men’s game suffers badly from a lack of dedication from players, many who have no interest in training therefore contributing to some clubs struggling to field first and reserve sides, especially on the same day.
Is the formation of Jersey Bulls a good thing for football on the island?
The formation of Jersey Bulls FC has provided the Island’s leading players with another level of football to play at and different opponents to test themselves against on a weekly basis. Jersey’s top two clubs last season, St Paul’s and St Peter respectively, have been hit hardest with the loss of players to the Bulls, but this has given the opportunity for their leading junior players to perform in the Premiership earlier than would have been expected and those involved are showing a lot of promise as they take the step up.
The revamp of senior cup competitions has also given opportunities for U18 teams to participate, again giving the youngsters further opportunities to play.
Is the league more or less competitive?
The formation of the Bulls has made the Premiership more competitive and we’ve not seen, to date, some of the high scores that were posted the last time the league amalgamated the top two divisions, so that has to be a plus. The JFA Combination have put on more age group festivals this season and, hopefully, that will help retain interest for the players and they remain in the game. Outside of the leagues there are further incentives for the players with the men’s, women’s, U18 and U16 teams all involved in inter-county tournaments.
What would suggest we do to improve football on the island?
We have a great game on the Island and the most disappointing fact is the lack of referees. Having officiated myself for over 25 years, it saddens me now to see such a small band of totally dedicated match officials having to work on their own with club assistants. If every club put one person on a referee’s course every season our game would be in a much better position. It would also take the strain off of the clubs who have to provide someone to take the whistle when no qualified referee is appointed.