A PUBLIC consultation is underway to try and prevent the decline in Sunday football.

At one stage, the Herefordshire Sunday League saw hundreds of players take to the field each weekend as teams battled away in five divisions.

But this season only eight teams are fighting for the title in the solitary county league – while the King George V Playing Fields have not been used at all.

The riverside park was once home to six pitches and, although two remain, the fact that no ball has been kicked on the site once synonymous with Sunday league football has made many fear that this could be the final year.

And, if the demise of the evening cricket league is anything to go by, the belief is that once it is gone, Sunday League football will never return.

Many reasons have been given for the reduction in both teams and players - which has accelerated rapidly over the last 10 years.

The cost of hiring pitches, coupled with their availability and quality, is often quoted – as is the amount of administration, the rise in weekend work and the huge amount of football now being shown on television.

The Herefordshire Football Association (HFA) is therefore asking both current and former players for their views on what can be done to keep Sunday football alive.

Possible suggestions being investigated are for flexible kick off times, especially in light of the suggestion that pubs’ later licensing hours have also had a detrimental impact on the ability of some players to make the traditional 11am starting times.

Another idea is for games to be played at a central venue - such as the King George’s or the Hereford Academy.

Administrators have seen the success six-a-side tournaments have had, such as the Leisure and Power Leagues, in hosting games at the same site throughout the season.

It is hoped that a central venue might also ease the cost for teams who don’t have their own pitch.

The shortage of sides was this year highlighted by the fact that Burghill finished their matches – and their season – by the middle of February.

Darren Coates, the club’s manager, believes the “culture of Sunday football has disappeared”.

“The old school players have long retired, the pubs are not interested anymore and the committed people behind the scenes have lost heart,” he said.

“Sunday’s used to be about playing for fun with your mates, having a few drinks in a local pub afterwards, the annual social event, great banter and friends of all abilities giving their all on a Sunday morning.

“We need to get the youngsters involved and emphasise that football isn’t just played on an Xbox!”

To submit your suggestions to the HFA, visit http://surveys.thefa.com/

Meanwhile, the Hereford Times would like to hear from anyone starting a new football team in any of the Herefordshire Saturday or Sunday leagues. Contact us at bgo@herefordtimes.com