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“It’s the right time!” Chairman of Boston and District Saturday Football League, which is bucking the national trend, steps aside after 21 years of service… and a coveted national award

The chairman of the county’s largest Saturday football league has announced he is stepping away from the role after 21 years of service, saying ‘it’s the right time’.

Roger Gell - who has been involved with the grassroots scene for more than half a century - believes it is time for some fresh blood to take the Workforce Unlimited Boston and District Saturday Football League forward.

The league includes teams from as far afield as Pinchbeck, Holbeach Bank, Fulbeck, Pointon, Sleaford, Skegness, Woodhall Spa and Horncastle, as well as surrounding villages such as Swineshead, Kirton and Wyberton - making it the largest Saturday league in the county and the only senior football league in south Lincolnshire.

Roger Gell (left) accepting the Fair Play and Respect award from then-FA chairman David Gill at the 2016 Charity Shield
Roger Gell (left) accepting the Fair Play and Respect award from then-FA chairman David Gill at the 2016 Charity Shield

Roger, 75, took over as chairman in 2003 with friend Jim Ely as vice-chairman. But following Jim’s passing last year, the Kirton resident believes it is time for an overhaul at the top.

“As the league needs to appoint a new vice chairman, I think it’s the right time for myself to stand aside and give the league the opportunity to do what myself and Jim had in 2023; to appoint a new chairman and vice chairman, and for them to take the league forward… hopefully for the same amount of time,” he said.

“It’s about the bigger picture and this is the right time to step aside.”

For Roger, he says his proudest moment as league chairman came in 2016 when he collected the Football Association’s national Fair Play and Respect award, handed out for the league’s work in integrating foreign nationals, both as players for established teams and also with running their own clubs.

Roger got to rub shoulders with the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton when the award was presented at the Community Shield final at Wembley by then-FA chairman David Gill as Manchester United beat Leicester City 2-1.

But that is not the only achievement he believes the league can look back on in recent years.

“We’re guardians of our time, and to have done 21 years from a league that has a long history, it was formed in 1898, is a proud feeling,” he added.

“I think the league has maintained its strength in those years and bucked the national trend, where there’s been a decline in Saturday football of about 30%. But the league has managed to maintain its strength.

“We have also had 100% coverage of matches with referees in recent years and I know that’s been a problem for other leagues. That’s a good achievement.

“The other thing is that we’ve given clubs value for money, football on a regular basis. That is important.”

“When you consider, unfortunately, the demise of the Grantham and Lincoln Saturday Leagues and that there is no Sunday league football in the south of Lincolnshire, the Boston league has an important role.”

The league concluded last season with 37 teams playing across three divisions, while also offering a pathway for young up-and-coming officials.

Roger’s involvement with local football began in 1960, playing for Kirton School Old Boys for 12 years before joining Boston Town (then Boston FC) in 1979 to assist with the formation of a youth set-up.

In 1984 he took over as first team manager during the Poachers’ spell in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division, before moving on to join Lincs League side Wyberton in a number of roles.

But as he steps back from his role with the league, with his successor set to be appointed at the upcoming AGM, Roger says his love for local football won’t disappear.

“I’ve been involved in local league football, playing, admin, managing, for over 50 years,” he added.

“There’ll still always be that interest. It’s inevitable it’ll still be there.”

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