The Middlesex Schools’ Football Association confirms, with sadness, that the 2022-23 season will be the final campaign for its Representative Squads.

The brutal reality is that, from a financial perspective, these squads are simply unsustainable. Analysis of the Association’s finances has shown that it has cost more to run the Representative Squads this season than was generated by the affiliation and County Cup entry fees from the 74 schools participating in our 13 County Cups. Given that, unlike other County Schools’ FAs, we have no commercial sponsors, nor do we ask for any financial contributions from parents towards running these squads, this is clearly unsustainable. The Association has absorbed the high level of costs associated with Representative Football by using funds held in reserve to subsidise this season’s squads. While this is acceptable on a ‘one-off’ basis, it is clearly not a long-term solution to a problem that will only get worse during the current economic issues the UK is experiencing.

Another factor in the Association’s decision making has been that Inter-County football no longer holds the attraction to players and their families that it once did. All five of the Middlesex squads have had player availability issues this season where players have chosen to prioritise club activities over County call-ups. So many players withdrew at short notice from the U14 Boys and U16 Boys squads for the recent scheduled matches against Sussex on the advice of club coaches that MSFA was forced to forfeit both games. Given the huge amount of administrative work that goes in to organising each and every match, plus the lack of respect these withdrawals show to the volunteer coaches, the Association’s Officers concluded that if representing their County is not important to players, then there was no value to running Representative Squads.

While withdrawing from Representative Football brings an end to a tradition even older than MSFA itself (schoolboy Representative Teams were representing Middlesex even before the Association was established in 1932), it does represent the most sensible course of action in terms of the long-term financial health of the Association. In addition, it will free up resources – and by this, we mean people’s time, not just money – to improve the competition offer we make to schools across the eight boroughs covered by our Association. We’re also not unique as a County Schools’ FA in bringing this aspect of our activities to an end – of the 44 CSFAs affiliated to the English Schools’ FA, eight currently don’t run Representative Teams and two of those are in the South-East region in which our teams play.

We will, of course, continue to offer our full backing to the Girls’ Representative Squads, both of which still have matches to play. In addition, the Association offers its heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers past and present who have helped to make Representative Matches happen over the years and, of course, to all the players to have worn the Amber and Maroon. The U15 Boys’ Squad ended on a high on Saturday, defeating Sussex 4-2 at Brunel University Sports Park and we look forward to the U14 Girls and U16 Girls representing Middlesex with distinction over the course of the rest of this season.