Junior games are recorded back in the 1880’s and probably grew up alongside the senior game, however, most were played on a friendly basis and organised in the main by Church Sunday Schools
The first structured League games were played in the early 1920’s when the Red Triangle League brought together teams from Boys Clubs and Youth organisations to provide a competitive League structure.
For over 50 years the Red Triangle League was the only place – other than schools – where young boys could test themselves in competition and many of today’s dads and granddads foster fond memories of the League.
As a mark of respect, three of the Red Triangle Championship shields are now used by the Huddersfield League for the u16, 17 and 18 Leagues.
By the early 70’s the Red Triangle League was struggling, young boys no longer attended Youth Clubs and Sunday Schools in the numbers they did throughout the first half of the century and the number of teams in the League was dwindling fast. Sadly, but inevitably the League folded in 1973.
While Junior Football appeared to be in decline 2 men, Bill Dyson and Bob Wagemans, realised a lot of youngsters still wanted to play and so was born the Huddersfield & District Junior Sunday Football League.
For the first 3 seasons only a handful of teams competed in an under 14 section but by 1979 the League had grown to include teams at u12, 14 and 16…. Stile Common and Oakes were the dominant clubs in the early days.
Over the next 10 years the League continued to grow steadily and by the end of the 1980’s over 100 teams were competing at ages u10 to u18.
But it was the last decade of the century which produced the biggest growth so far at junior level. During the 1990’s the Junior game expanded beyond recognition with new teams emerging from almost every suburb and village and by 1992 most age groups had expanded to 2 divisions… by 1996 – 3 divisions… in season 2006-2007 there were 4 divisions and 8 divisions by 2014-15.
The introduction of Mini-Soccer produced yet another leap in the number of teams playing football and today the Huddersfield League boasts teams at all age groups from u7 to u18 with over 850 teams competing every week providing healthy recreation for some 11,000 youngsters.
Sponsors are now an essential element of the game at all levels and Huddersfield became one of the first sponsored Leagues in the area when Messrs GELPACK-EXCELSIOR agreed to sponsor the League in 1988 – indeed the brand name became so well known that the league has, for many years, been generally referred to as the Gelpack League and it is under this name that the league has appeared, not just locally but in National newspapers, National radio and on Yorkshire Television.
After a wonderful 13 year run Gelpack decided it was time to move on and so the search began for a new sponsor. Several companies expressed an interest but when the BUPA Hospital at Elland put their bid forward the choice was easy.
As BUPA said goodbye so RCD stepped in to fill the sponsorship gap.
RCD (Ramsden Colne Developments) might not be so well known to many people but their 200 million pound regeneration scheme is soon set to transform the Chapel Hill area of Huddersfield and the league is happy to be associated with another positive organisation which is bringing good things to the area.
Naturally, as more people play football than ever before, the more it is necessary to monitor the welfare of players and clubs alike – both for their own sakes and for the benefit of the game…….. The youngest age groups now play small sided or ‘Mini-Soccer’ and team managers are required to possess F.A approved qualifications and undergo CRB (Criminal Record Bureax) checks before taking charge of their teams.
The Huddersfield League took it’s own steps to improve matters in 1998 with the introduction of a Junior Coaching Scheme… Funded with the help of SPORTS MATCH and run in association with Kirklees Council providing professional coaching for all players, clubs and team managers at all levels.
Season 2006 – 07 saw the League take another step forward when all member clubs achieved Charter Standard status.
Charter Standard is the Football Association’s kite mark for quality which requires clubs, team managers and parents to meet certain basic requirements. In addition all team managers must posses a Level 1 Coaching certificate and all adults involved in junior football must undergo a C.R.B (Criminal Records Bureaux) check to ensure they have no convictions which might prove a danger to children.
As anyone who has been involved in a voluntary organisation will know, maintaining such a rapidly expanding League requires a great deal of dedication and leadership from its working Committee….. In the early days Bill Dyson and Bob Wagemans carried out most of the secretarial work themselves and both were honoured with Life Membership of the League in recognition of their efforts… Laurie Platt became the ‘Godfather’ of local junior football when he oversaw the League grow from just over 100 teams to over 700 between 1975 & 2010 with his words of wisdom… Today a working Committee of no less than 25 people is necessary to maintain the high standards of the League.
As the new season gets under way the game of soccer is changing – at all levels – and the Huddersfield League will endeavor to be at the forefront of any improvements.