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HomeFOOTBALLThe 45-year story of two Sevenoaks & District Football League Secretaries

The 45-year story of two Sevenoaks & District Football League Secretaries

Derek Hodge had barely finished one year on the League Council and therefore, very much a ‘rookie’ in terms of League Management when approached by a group of League Council members, disenchanted with the downward trend of local League.  Derek was asked to see whether he was interested in being elected to the position of Secretary at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting.

Already married with a young family and had been a local Club Secretary Derek gave careful thought to the matter and confirmed he was happy to go into the melting pot with the proviso he would stand for election and initially would serve for five years.

Derek’s philosophy has always been ‘if you are going to do a job, it is worth doing it well’.  He immediately arranged an interview with Russ Perkins, Sports Editor of the Sevenoaks Chronicle to discuss the League appointment and his ambition of putting the League on the footballing map.  There were just 31 teams in the League at the time.  Firstly, it was arranged for a weekly Round-up of the League action to be sent to the Chronicle.  As the years progressed, Cup Final reports and the weekly Round-up became much more of a feature with the photographers and Sports Editors of the time playing their parts.

At this stage, Tony Hudd, Kent Messenger Sports Editor also took on board the weekly Reports in addition to the Sunday Express accepting our results.

Derek succeeded the late Norman Chatfield as Secretary, with John Bellamy a former player with Riverhead United as Chairman and Charles Goold as Treasurer.

At the time the League was in desperate need of funds due to the previous Treasurer disappearing with the funds.  Thus all member clubs were requested to pay a certain figure to put the League in credit once again.

One of Derek’s early tasks and indeed an onerous one at that, came about when the Chairman, who was a member of the KCFA asked him to arrange the Annual General Meeting of the County in Sevenoaks.  It would require obtaining Sponsorship, a venue and lunch for KCFA members and guests followed by a Meeting in all totally about 250 people.

If successful it would be the first time Sevenoaks had been asked to stage the Meeting since 1956 and indeed an honour.   Derek set about obtaining sponsorship which was achieved and arranged for the entire function through Harris and Dixon Insurance Brokers.  The function was hosted by the Sevenoaks Social Club by courtesy of President John Crick and supporting staff.  It was a complete success.

Thereafter and as the seasons progressed a Sevenoaks League Under 18 Team was introduced to compete in a Kent Cup Competition, followed by an annual Sports Quiz Competition for Clubs which was very popular. A 75th Anniversary Inter League match with the Dartford League was arranged in 1981 followed by a Dinner/Dance at the Spinning Wheel Restaurant, Westerham.

Other credits included the formation of the Coaching School for youngsters sponsored by Plasmarc of Dunton Green.  An annual League Presentation Evening for all clubs was introduced, which at the time was popular, at the peak approximately 200 people attended.  One such event at a venue off of the A20 at Wrotham Heath concluded when a player snatched a fire extinguisher off of the wall in the corridor, squirting the foam all over the carpet and walls.  This act of vandalism cost the League over £100 to clean up the mess. At the time one wondered whether it was worth arranging the evening.

All of this was done to increase interest and membership.  Indeed the number of Clubs increased and in 1992 there were 49 teams divided into five Divisions.

Prior to this a Biennial Dinner/Dance was arranged to take place at The Grasshopper, Westerham with Trevor Brooking and his wife Hilgard as guests of honour.  Sponsorship of the League followed with Hire-It at Riverhead being involved.

In 2002 an Arsenal Ex-Professional Celebrity X1 played a Charity Match at Greatness Park against a Sevenoaks League Select X1 with well in excess of 1000 spectators attending. In October 2006 a Centenary Dinner/Dance with cabaret was held at The Thistle Hotel, Brands Hatch with 200 guests attending. Barry Bright, Vice Chairman of the FA and Chairman of the KCFA attended while Bob ‘The Cat’ Bevan entertained the audience.

In 2011 Derek decided to retire and handed over to a highly capable Kevin Turner.  Kevin was well known for his goal scoring exploits for Riverhead United and Chipstead before a problematic knee injury curtailed his playing career.

A well known and respected Referee, Kevin became Referees Appointment Secretary for the League at the AGM in July 2001 having previously held the position with the Sevenoaks Charity Cup Competition.

Therefore, Kevin was well versed with the administration of the Sevenoaks and District Football League when he was elected  to succeed at the League  AGM in July 2011.

By now the administration duties were very much orchestrated by emails and the internet in contrast to his predecessors.  Kevin soon settled into the position and it was not long before the Tonbridge and District Football League folded due to the demise of many Clubs and various meetings took place to discuss who was still interested in  competitive Saturday afternoon football.

In effect the local League benefitted from this and a number of clubs were voted into the Competition at the AGM and it created additional interest for our own teams although there was more travelling to cope with.

The nature of League administration was changing as The Football Association were getting more directly involved particularly where the subject of Rules were concerned. Also, the policy of players Registration, Match Results etc.  A League Secretary’s administrative position was changing all the time.

Another League was in demise being the Maidstone and District League. Not unlike the Tonbridge League it was much more extensive than our own with considerably more clubs and teams.  Again the local League benefitted albeit to a lesser extent.

The whole of football in Kent appeared to be on a decline with a shortage of personnel to administer clubs and the general decline in player participation.  They were changing times with the Dartford and Gravesend Leagues having already folded.

Any League position is time consuming.  There are no fewer than nine Cup Competitions.  There are two other main Officers namely a Fixture Secretary and a Referee Appointments Secretary, nevertheless, the League Secretary’s position is of paramount importance.

At this point of time the League was still thriving with 52 teamsdivided into five Divisions but the strength of the League can change at any time such is the vulnerability of local football.

After a period of eleven years Kevin decided to retire so along with Derek they had jointly contributed 45 years to the Sevenoaks and District Football League. Both will tell you that it was greatly satisfying and without the support of their respective wives it would not have been possible.

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