A YOUTH football club, which was instrumental in the founding of the Testway Youth Football League, has folded after 31 years.
Organisers behind Vernham Dean Youth Football Club made the sad announcement last month, citing a difficulty in attracting players to play for the village side.
Club secretary and original founding member, Roger Smith said: “It’s very say but it has run its course.
“We’ve been struggling to get players for the last five years.
“We used to attract players from around the area, including Andover, but with more teams in the town it has been harder over the last couple of years.
“Understandably, parents don’t want to drive out to Vernham Dean when their children can play locally The village side has trained over 1,000 children from the area since it was formed in 1986 by Mr Smith, who originally started the team for his daughter.
Boys from around the area began to join and it quickly developed into a fully fledged side.
In 1988, Vernham Dean were joined by Monxton, Gills and Wallop in forming the 120 League – a division where the total age of teams could not exceed 120-years-old.
This later developed into the Testway Youth Football League, which had 185 registered youth teams as of the 2016/17 season.
Over the next 30-years, Vernham had many successful teams, particularly during the 1990s, and most recently their title winning U13 side.
However with the ever increasing number of youth teams in the area, Vernham Dean have struggled to bring in young players in recent years.
The club were forced to cut the number of youth sides down to five in the last few years, and of late, have had just one team participating in the Testway League. Their last crop, an U14 side led by manager Paul Jackson, battled hard this season but could not record a win.
And, after completing all of their fixtures this season, club officials decided to call time on Vernham’s 31 year history.
Smith said: “It is disappointing because I’ve been there since the start.
“But I feel the club has run its course and it has served a real purpose for many years.
“But our legacy is one of the original members of the Testway League and we can be proud of that.”
Smith added that the club’s current crop of players and manager will now join Upper Clatford Youth FC next season.
He added that the club also plan to donate a trophy to the Testway League to honour the memory of Vernham Dean.