CHIEF Executive Jim Lambert has admitted the Herefordshire Football Association may look at a number of options to try and stop the decline in Sunday League football in the county.

Only nine teams will compete next season, which is down a massive 78 per cent from 10 years ago when 41 teams would turn up on a Sunday.

Last season, there were 14 teams competing in two divisions before the league was split into two mini leagues in order for teams to continue to play in the spring.

Lambert says the HFA may look at afternoon kick-offs or even matches taking place mid-week and will do anything they can to try and recruit more teams.

“We certainly hope it won’t be the last season of Sunday football,” said Lambert.

“It’s ok supporting walking football, but we don’t want to be doing that if we lose traditional football.

“But there are a number of reasons why teams are dropping out.

“One is trying to get volunteers to run clubs and two, nightclubs are now opening much later, with licensing laws taking its toll.

“Sunday football is renowned for being supported by pubs, but it’s a tight squeeze for many now and they’re not prepared to commit to putting a team in the league.

“So in general, people are not prepared to commit to 11-a-side football. But we will look to do anything around helping people get ready for the season and will be going to secretaries of clubs who have packed in to see what we can do to try and get them back.”

One of the more established Sunday League teams are the Barrels, who will once again be competing next season.

Ray Steele, who helps run the team, said not having a relegation system in place in the Premier Division in seasons gone past is at the root of the problem.

“When I played there were always 30 to 40 teams every season, but the issue was that if you won your league to get into the Premier Division, you wouldn’t get relegated and would get battered by the better teams,” he said.

“You had Vaga, plus four or so teams from Ledbury who had West Midlands League players, so some teams were being hammered every week.

“Last season, we had two leagues but everyone knew Bromyard Colts would win their league and Vaga theirs before it even started.

"I think they should split the league half way through the season again and have two cup competitions, because otherwise some teams will have no chance of winning anything.”

Ian Morris, who has been involved with Rosey Athletic during the past eight seasons, fears this could be the last season.

“It seems most people prefer to sit in arm chairs and follow far away Premier League teams than actually participate in the sport,” he said.

“However, I do feel that the authorities could also be more proactive in promoting the league.”

HFA chairman Steve Willmott used to run the Sunday League before the HFA took over its administration last season.

He said it’s a different era now to when he used to play and there is a decline in 11-a-side football across the country.

“When I was playing clubs used to stay open until 1am, now it’s 4 or 5, so it’s no surprise that people don’t want to get up and play football at 11o’clock on a Sunday,” said Willmott.

“It is also not cheap for some teams to play, especially if they haven’t got their own pitches.

“There has been a continuing decline, but the HFA has given them free footballs and tried to help as best as we can.”