The Huddersfield Junior Football League is looking to register its 13,000th player by the end of 2023 and officials are excited about the future.
Created in the early 1970s the league will celebrate its 50th year very soon. Whilst the current crop of committee members are proud of its history they are also looking forward to how they can improve the league further and reach more local children.
With over 90 teams and just under 12,500 players, the Huddersfield league is the fifth biggest in the country and is the only town in the top eight.
That stat alone speaks volumes for how the local junior football scene is thriving in Huddersfield. Stretching from Wakefield to Leeds, a 15-mile radius from Huddersfield Town Hall plots the various clubs’ positions right across Kirklees and beyond.
James Carter, who is part of the league’s committee, is hoping that 2023 can be a big year for the league, and insists that it is looking to improve all the time.
He said: “We have a long and proud history, and over the last five years we have certainly grown. We have changed our relationship with the clubs so it is more harmonious and overall that has been taken very well.
“We now have a strong cross-section of clubs all across West Yorkshire. It just proves that Huddersfield is a thriving town for football and the people really love their sport here.
“Last year was a good year but we want to make things even better. We feel we can grow and improve. We have a number of aims, two of which are getting to 13,000 registered players and having 100 clubs affiliated to our league. These are achievable targets and ones we are hoping to get to.”
The league recently announced a closer partnership with Huddersfield Town FC and James wants to build on that over the coming 12 months.
“The partnership is fantastic with Town,” he said. “Beforehand there was just the ability to have mascots on the pitch. Clubs would ask Town for a signed shirt but there wasn’t a strong relationship between league and club.
“That is something we are now working on. The partnership isn’t about finances because we haven’t got any money to put into projects and the club can’t offer much so we are being creative.
“Firstly, the partnership gives us exposure and it makes us more visible. There are practical things too, such the club may let us use the stadium or the training ground for under 18s cup final games.
“They may let us take teams on stadium tours or visit the team at the training ground. We are discussing plans for our coaches to see how the club’s youth coaches work, how we can improve the mascot experience and more.”
Finally, James wanted to mention how the league is tackling bad behaviour and reducing incidents.
“As a league we have seen a decrease in the amount of incidents taking place across our matches,” he said. “Unfortunately, you hear of poor behaviour in the national Press across junior leagues, however the opposite has been the case with us where incidents have decreased.
“We have worked hard with the clubs to put a process in place so they can report it if an incident happens. Obviously we have a standard we want to set and we have explained to clubs what we feel is and isn’t acceptable.
“The clubs have done a good job in helping us get these incidents down. No league will ever be perfect but we are pleased with the progress we’ve made.”