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The early round of friendly darts matches soon led to a suggestion that there was sufficient interest across the Association's growing number of clubs for these games to become formalised into some form of competition. Interestingly, there was a view that the introduction of a competitive edge might be prejudicial to APFSCIL's collaborative spirit. Mutual trust subverted this however and a darts ladder competition was inaugurated in the Autumn of 1976.

Meantime provision had been found necessary for those with a need for greater physical exertion and a 5-a-Side soccer tournament between member and prospective member clubs took place at the Crofton Leisure Centre in April 1976. It was won by one of two teams entered by Stoke City. The event was deemed a success, but unsatisfactory in that it had taken place outdoors and had had to be spread over three week-ends. An indoor location had been sought but not found so when an opportunity to use the Michael Sobell Centre in Islington arose in July 1976, it was eagerly grasped. Sadly, the occasion caused the first incident in the Association's history in which a dispute involving one of the competing teams led to an unsavoury breakdown in friendly relations and a walk-out by the organiser and one of the referees. Such occasions are an inevitability but it was reassuring that neither were any subsequent grudges borne nor have there been many recurrences over the first 25 years. An immediate outcome, however, was the appointment of a 5-a-Side Rules Sub-Committee to develop strict guidelines within which any future such competitions would be staged.

A particular problem met by supporters' clubs with arranging 11-a-side football matches was the need to book pitches well in advance. Some had neither the resources to do so or the ability to plan fixtures so far ahead. APFSCIL therefore decided to make a block-booking for the 1976/77 season and sell them on to individual clubs as the season progressed. This arrangement continued for a further three years and as a result of its success, and the steady growth in the Association's membership, it became clear that there was potential for the formation of a properly constituted League, registered with the London Football Association.

The APFSCIL Football League, formed on 17th April 1980, has been one of its most successful enterprises, developing from an initial 15 clubs, in two divisions for the 1980/81 season to 28 teams in three divisions this season. Whilst It constitutionally remains responsible to the Association's Sports & Social Secretary, it is effectively self-governing with its own elected Committee and detailed rulebook. The established status of the league is witnessed by the fact that the Final of its League Cup competition has been able obtain the use of Brentford, Fulham and Leyton Orient's league stadia. Other venues have included the grounds of Dulwich Hamlet, Hendon, Kingstonian and Southall Football Clubs. Whilst a number of club representatives have taken an active part in administering its competitions and imposing its rules, it is appropriate to pay tribute here to the various and significant contributions throughout the League's history of Rotherham supporter and current League Chairman, David Baister.

The creation of the Football League also prompted the conversion of the random organisation of 5-a-side Tournaments into an annual event, though, with the exception of the 1994 to 1997 competitions when it was run by the League, responsibility for its administration remained with the Administrative Committee. From 1988, a trophy originally donated by Portsmouth for 5-a-side events (The Pompey Jubilee Trophy) was re-dedicated to the memory of Greg Peck who had been instrumental in the very first indoor tournament in 1976.

The original Darts Ladder had, meanwhile, proved to have been only a limited success, largely due to its members failing to take the initiative to issue challenges. Over a period of several months, various alternatives were discussed at General Meetings with the aim of providing a more focussed competition and in 1978 a Darts League was formed, similarly backed by its own sub-committee. The initial fixtures of both an 8-a-side and a 5-a-side league were preceded by a knock-out competition won by Aston Villa for which a trophy in the memory of Malcolm Peart, one of those who had attended the Association's inaugural meeting, was awarded.

Following the example set out by football and darts, friendly pool matches between clubs prompted the formation of an APFSCIL Pool League in the 1981/82 season and it has continued successfully ever since.

Ian Todd

In the Beginning | The Early Years | Travel | Publicity | General Meetings | Social | Sport | Discipline and Arbitration | Relationship with other Bodies | The Future | In Remembrance