t’s a little known fact that Morden Little League grew from a passion for Baseball!!
Frank Adey had travelled to the USA to experience his passion for the sport. He soon discovered Little League Baseball (LLB) where every child was free to participate and all teams were selected so each had an equal chance.
England’s recent World Cup success in mind(1966), a germ of an idea became lodged in Frank’s thoughts. On his return home, he decided to put this idea into action and set about founding Little League Football. the principles and format of the league have hardly changed since Frank’s passion for baseball ignited what we all witness and enjoy every Saturday morning on King George’s Field.
In his day, Frank played football at a high standard, as centre half for Epsom Town. Whilst spending some time in the States, Frank had become very impressed with the concept of Little League Baseball. A keen baseball player himself, Frank was an all-round sportsman and a regular in his works football team back in England. Frank was well aware of the shortcomings of youth football in the 1960’s. For a start, there wasn’t much of it, apart from school football. So if a boy wasn’t in the school team, he might get to play occasionally for the Cubs or Scouts, but only if he was pretty good would he get into a Sunday team. Otherwise, he could have a kick-around with his friends in the street or park.
So Frank got thinking hard about what was wrong with youth soccer and how could his ideas, together with some of the ways of Little League Baseball be adapted to suit England’s national game. After mulling it over, he came up with his concept of how youth football ought to be arranged. “Football for children,” Frank declared, “should be child-centred.” At the time, that was quite a revolutionary proposal. “No longer would kids have to fit the adult way of playing the game,” he decided, “the game would be changed to fit the children.” Some ideas were pretty obvious, like cutting down the size of pitches to suit the size of the players. No longer should small boys struggle on adult pitches, or goalies be beaten by lobbing the ball over their heads. Some ideas were very new, like limiting the numbers in a squad and making substitutions compulsory, or telling children that once they were in a team, they wouldn’t be dropped if a better player came along.
Frank also wanted every kid to have the chance of playing. So there wouldn’t be fees and subs each week that could exclude boys from poorer families from playing and playing all games at home meant that every Little League became a community organisation, with huge social advantages automatically built into every League. Having thought it through, Frank then started discussions with others in his company football team, notably George Burdett, F. Judd and Ron Sexton.His concept of Little League Football created much enthusiasm and Frank signed up several of his colleagues to be the first team managers. Amongst those keen to be press-ganged was a youngster by name of Ronald Hobbs, who was to prove a valuable addition to the cause.
Gradually the first Little League Football rulebook took shape and Frank was ready to take up the challenge of setting up the first League. He already had his first six team managers and persuading the local authority to provide a pitch of the right dimensions and a changing room was soon achieved.
Finances would be required, of course. The new rule book suggested each team should have a sponsor so Frank gave a talk at the Morden Rotary Club luncheon in November, 1967. Both the lunch and the talk went down well, and by the time coffee was served, Frank had sponsors for all six teams. In addition, Ron and Joyce Hales, the owners of a sports shop in South Wimbledon agreed to give hefty discounts on the kit, plus a lengthy period of free credit.
The original Sponsors were Tom Arnold, Len Smart who ran a photography business called Remco,Arthur Footman, an aptly named supplier of chiropody equipment, Leo Mays, of L.V. Mays Transport, Ernest C. Micklewright of Elm, Auto Sales and H John Locke of Switchgear Engineering
All this had taken place by the time of the inaugural meeting of Little League Football on 21st February, 1968 in the Watliff canteen. So all that was required were the boys and Frank now went on a recruiting drive. A thousand leaflets were distributed to advertise the trials and in addition, Frank started chatting up every likely lad in the area – until the local constabulary suggested that this might not be seen as such a good idea.