Youth football event called off at 11th hour amid red tape

Murray Forson and Ben Wilson, who play for Redhall Star. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Murray Forson and Ben Wilson, who play for Redhall Star. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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HUNDREDS of young players were left disappointed after a major indoor football festival was cancelled less than 36 hours before kick-off.

Parents and coaches were only told the 160-team ‘futsal’ event – being held at World of Football in Slateford and Oriam in Riccarton – was off at 9.45pm on Friday ahead of a 9am Sunday start.

Confusion over Scottish Youth Football Association approval was blamed for the fiasco, while a district secretary seemingly threatened to quit after his organisation was left thousands of pounds out of pocket.

One coach suggested tougher rules in the wake of the football sex abuse scandal had prompted authorities to insist all players were registered before matches could be played.

Former Hearts star and radio pundit Allan Preston, 47, coaches youngsters at Redhall Star, which had five teams of ten-year-olds ready to play.

“It’s madness,” said Allan. “You’ve got 1000 kids not being able to play football because of rules and regulations.”

Five-a-side pitches costing more than £3000 at normal rates lay empty on Sunday after organisers East of Scotland Soccer Development Association (ESSDA) block-booked in advance. Organisers now face a race against time to get the go-ahead for the festival’s remaining five weeks’ worth of games for six to 11-year-olds.

Previous year’s events have gone off without a hitch, but this year ESSDA claim they were told by the SYFA that no matches could take place until teams were formally approved.

In an e-mail to coaches, Roger Oglesby apologised to “hundreds of young players who won’t get to play the beautiful game”.

“To book indoor facilities I need to organise in summer and get team/clubs to commit well before registration for SYFA is open,” Mr Oglesby wrote.

“I never received a reply or an acknowledgement from SYFA about my questions/concerns,” he added, signing off “Soon to be Ex Gen Sec of ESSDA”.

Mr Oglesby was unavailable for comment, but he and fellow volunteer colleagues garnered sympathy from coaches for working “tirelessly in their spare time”.

“The kids are the ones who are going to suffer,” said Allan, a volunteer coach at Redhall Star. “They’re really disappointed because they were looking forward to playing and seeing friends in other teams, socialising and having a really good start to the new year.

“It’s just ridiculous that they’ve been stopped from playing. It helps to get them out and off the XBox.”

Fellow Redhall Star coach Scott Robertson frantically tried to contact parents after the event was cancelled.

He said: “We had 100 kids who were meant to be taking part. I e-mailed their parents and coaches but the message might not have got through to all and some might’ve turned up on Sunday morning.”

Mr Robertson speculated whether recent high-profile football abuse stories had prompted tougher SYFA rules.

Computer consultant Richard Forson’s nine-year-old son Murray was all set to turn out for Redhall on Sunday.

“I had to explain to Murray that he couldn’t go and play with his pals and that it’d been cancelled basically because of red tape. It’s pretty stupid,” said Richard, 38, from Buckstone.

No-one at the SYFA was available for comment.