1997/98 was the inaugural season of competitive league football for Lambeth Primary Schools. Ten schools competed for a Championship Shield which was eventually won by Sudbourne Primary of Brixton.
All matches were played at Rosendale Road Playing Fields although the playing surfaces and the pavilion were far from perfect. Seven schools had teacher involvement with varying degrees of parental involvement, two teams were managed by parents and one by the schoolkeeper. Boys and girls played together although some schools did not have any girls playing. All teams played with enthusiasm and varying degrees of skill and special mention should go to Crown Lane and Streatham Wells, schools which although not particularly successful on the pitch competed to the end of the season with eagerness and spirit.
In the last few weeks of the season the competition for the top two places came down to three schools, Stockwell Junior of Brixton, Elm Wood Primary of West Norwood and the above mentioned Sudbourne Primary. The final match turned out to be the championship decider with Sudbourne securing the Championship by beating Elm Wood 7-3.
The final league table for the first season was as follows:
Elm Wood finished top of Division 1 over Stockwell thanks to a superior goal difference. Holy Trinity won Division 2 with Streatham Wells finishing as runners up. Again all games were played at Rosendale Playing Fields although the facilities were no better than the previous season.
N.B. This was the only season in which divisions were classified according to supposed ability ie 1 and 2. It was subsequently recognised that as players move to secondary school it does not automatically follow that a successful school one season will have the same playing strength the next season. It was also the only time goal difference was used to separate teams. LPSFL has since adopted the practise used in local youth football leagues of not having goal difference as the deciding factor for placing teams.
Eighteen schools were divided into two roughly geographical divisions, North and South, each comprising nine teams with every school to play all others in their division once. All matches scheduled to be at Rosendale Road. The teams were run by teachers (8), school caretakers (4), parents (3), and in three cases by paid coaches.
The first matches took place in October although schools in the South Division for a variety of reasons were unable to play on the scheduled date and as a consequence some of them were unable to catch up and did not complete their scheduled fixtures. The only other major fixture problem was in March when incessant rain for most of the preceding week meant that all South Division games on Saturday the 4th were postponed.
All schools continued to play on Saturday mornings and from April those more committed started playing straight after school. After school games were in fact the only way to play Magazine Cup matches in most cases as the long Easter break combined with fixture backlog in the South Division meant there were no free Saturdays at Rosendale. League and Magazine Cup matches continued through May and in a few cases into June when the overall Lambeth Championship was decided.
The North Division was won by Corpus Christi with Holy Trinity finishing second and Elm Wood won the South Division, Norwood Park ending as runners up. The Lambeth Championship play off was won by Elm Wood who beat Corpus Christi 2-0. Trophies and medals were presented in Lambeth Town Hall by the Mayor Cllr. Clare Whelan.
The Magazine Cup was duly completed with Elm Wood beating Stockwell in the final
The season was considered successful, certainly in terms of giving primary schoolchildren the opportunity to play organised football on grass. Factors to be considered were the general lack of facilities in Lambeth which so far restricted LPSFL to using one venue (itself sub-standard), the need to maintain the goodwill of teachers involved in running school teams and problems stemming from lack of qualified impartial referees. Discipline was excellent with no instances of players being sent off and only a very few occasions where players needed to be spoken to.
A total of 64 league matches were played and 16 cup matches involving Lambeth schools. In addition the annual seven a side tournament for Lambeth schools was played under the auspices of the League. At this tournament Rosendale won the Walcot Cup beating Stockwell in the final and St Judes won the Shield.
The league was now in its fourth season and had eighteen schools participating. All schools played their games at the same venue and were divided into two divisions of nine teams. An exceptionally wet winter meant that no schools completed their fixtures but eventually Jessop won their division with Stockwell and Sudbourne tying for runners up spot. The other division had to be decided by a three way play off in which St Bernadette's came out on top over Sunnyhill and Glenbrook. The Magazine Cup was won by Stockwell who beat Oliver Goldsmith of Southwark in the final.
The league adopted a formal constitution with the stated aim of providing organised, competitive football for boys and girls attending primary and junior schools in Lambeth. The objective in doing this was to encourage physical and social development, teamworking, discipline and the ethic of fair play in which winning is important but not at any cost. LPSFL sought to introduce Lambeth children to the benefits of playing football and in so doing hopeed boys and girls would maintain an active lifestyle.
For the 2000/01 season the league was forced to switch the venue for most matches to the South Bank University Sportsground in Turney Road Dulwich as the facilities at the Lambeth Council run playing field in Rosendale Road which had previously been used had deteriorated alarmingly. South Bank University proved keen to become involved and gave the league a substantial discount on pitch hire costs as well as providing customised scaled down pitches and goalposts ideally suited to 10 and 11 year old footballers. This in additional to recently refurbished dressing rooms and immaculate playing surfaces. However this entailed increased costs for the schools involved and the league was delighted that season to obtain financial support from the South East London Community Foundation and its Healthy Communities Fund which granted £1000 to help cover pitch hire charges.
The strategy of LPSFL was and remains to provide regular football for schools governed by rules which emphasise the importance of taking part whilst allowing competition. By arranging the league into two equal divisions it was hoped children of all abilities would be able to benefit from a team sport and have something to strive for. As most Lambeth schools do not have playing fields LPSFL remains one of the few opportunities Lambeth children have for regular participation in sport taking place outdoors and on grass.
The league believes that it can help provide opportunities for talented sporting children from disadvantaged backgrounds to harness and develop their natural abilities. Accordingly links were established with the South London Schools FA which is the Football Associations local governing body and responsible for elite players through its district representative teams. In addition primary schoolchildren are actively encouraged to continue playing football when they switch to secondary school through liaison with youth and adult football teams based at the South Bank University sports ground.
A spin off from the success of our competition has been that the composition of the South London Schools FA district representative under 11 team drawn from Lambeth and Southwark schools has become overwhelmingly made up of Lambeth schoolchildren. For players of higher than average ability this represents a greatly increased opportunity to play football at a higher level and in some cases to play with professional clubs which send scouts to the representative matches. The district team in fact relies not only on the players from our League but for a manager and coach to run the side.
As a footnote it should be noted that the annual 7 a side tournament which was the catalyst for the League has now taken place for the last five years and twenty teams from eighteen Lambeth schools competed for a cup, shield and plate on 10th June 2001 at the South Bank University Sports Ground which were presented by the deputy mayor of Lambeth, Councillor June Fewtrell.
Winners of the Walcot Cup that year were Jessop with Corpus Christi runners up. The shield was won by Streatham Wells who beat Kings Avenue in the final and the plate competition ended with St Mary's beating Rosendale in the final.
Divisional winners were Sudbourne and St Bernadettes, runners up St Marys and Francesca Cabrini. In the Lambeth championship play off, St Bernadettes secured the Lambeth championship by beating Sudbourne.
The Magazine Cup was won by Crampton who beat St Bernadettes on penalties after finishing level after extra time.
In the annual 7s tournament the main competition, the Walcot Cup was won by
St Bernadettes, again beating Sudbourne in a final. The Morgan Berry Shield was secured by Hitherfield who won in the final against Glenbrook. The Plate was won by Holy Trinity beating Macaulay in the final.
Earlier in the season Rosendale won the South London Schools 6 a side competition held one evening at the Ferndale sports centre. They then went on to represent South London in the Inner London 6 a sides at Walthamstow.
Corpus Christi were withdrawn from the league by John Wentworth their headteacher after disciplinary problems involving a small number of their parents at a school game. In addition Jessop and Elm Wood were expelled from the Magazine Cup following innapropriate behaviour from parents and managers at their cup match.
Sunnyhill failed to complete their fixtures after problems at the school resulted in the loss of the school football team manager with no one subsequently available to run the team.
Season 2003/04 was relatively successful but again had to carry on into the summer term because of the lack of alternative venues to South Bank. Discipline was generally good, but lack of independent referees was occasionally a problem which the league will try and address next season. The number of participating schools had increased to 22 hence the resultant pressure on pitches. Rosendale was used with reluctance because of the lack of a pavilion and terrible state of the pitches. The Southwark Sports Ground on Dulwich Common proved to be an excellent summer site but cannot be used during the regular football season.
The divisional winners were Francesca Cabrini and Galleywall, with Oliver Goldsmith and Corpus Christi runners up. Cabrini won the overall championship beating Galleywall in the play off.
The Magazine Cup was completed at the very end of the Summer term although the final had to be abandoned a few minutes from the end due to a freak and very fierce hailstorm which left the pitch covered in ice and players and spectators frozen and soaked. Oliver Goldsmith were winning 1-0 at the time and Corpus Christi very sportingly agreed that the score could stand as a result, a gesture much appreciated as a fine example of the spirit in which football should be played.
The annual 7 a side tournament was as usual well organised and contested with the premier competition the Walcot Cup won by Oliver Goldsmith who beat Corpus Christi in the final. The Keating Estates Shield went to Hitherfield with St Marys as runners up. Special mention to Bonneville our guest team for winning the South London Schools FA Plate beating Sudbourne in the final who won their first match of the whole season at the tournament and who throughout the year played with great spirit despite their losing run.
The South London Schools FA representative under 11 team comprising a majority of LPSFL players had their best ever season winning two cups and an international tournament in France. However, in contrast to the sporting attitudes of our schools the Lewisham Schools FA saw fit to appeal against their 5-3 cup final defeat on the ground that the South London team used an under age player in the final. This appeal was subsequently upheld by the Inner London Schools FA which has apparently awarded the cup to Lewisham. This has understandably disillusioned the South London manager Steve Underwood with the result that South London may not run a competitive team this season. Is it really so important to win that a team should seek to do so on a technicality after being thoroughly outplayed on the pitch?
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