Over 3,000 youngsters will be taking to playing fields across north Northamptonshire area this weekend as the Weetabix Youth League swings back into action.
The long-established league will once again see hundreds of teams of boys and girls competing in age groups ranging from under-7 to under-15.
It’s been a busy or, as general secretary Ian Tortoishell described it “hectic”, summer with numerous changes to contend with.
The biggest of them has seen the league being part of a pilot scheme for registering players on a new online database as part of the FA’s Whole Game System.
Along with changes in laws of the game for referees, coaches and players to get their heads round, it all adds up to another busy spell before the action finally gets under way.
“It’s been rather hectic but we are all looking forward to it starting again,” Tortoishell said.
“At this time there are 3,431 players registered to play in the league but we would expect that to rise to over 3,500.
“We have lost our under-16s division for this season, which is a bit of a disappointment but, in terms of clubs and teams, we are still on a par with how we finished last season.
“And there are 24 teams in the under-15s this season so we are confident that the under-16s will be restored next year.
“But it has been a busy build-up. Our fixtures secretary Geoff Cotter has retired after a number of years of service and we have been bedding in two new people into that role.
“And we have been part of the pilot scheme, along with 50 other leagues, which involves players now being registered online on the Whole Game System.
“It was something we felt it would be good to be part of considering it will be coming in across the country and it has meant we have started at the ground floor.
“We recognise that clubs have put in a lot of work alongside us to be part of this and our registration secretary Michelle Abbott has played the key role in making it a success.
“As ever, it’s not just players we are responsible for developing.
“We have a good relationship with the Northamptonshire Football Association and we will be giving more young, recently-qualified referees the chance to officiate in the mini soccer matches.”
Other key changes ahead of the new campaign include a nine-week break for mini soccer teams during January and February, which will see them switch indoors to play five-a-side football and Futsal in a bid to give the pitches they play on a rest in the winter months.
Mini soccer in the Wellingborough area, meanwhile, has now been switched from Irchester to the Old Grammarians Memorial Sports Field.
The season will once again culminate in the League Cup finals days, which are likely to be held at Corby Town’s Steel Park stadium in May next year and could also incorporate newly-introduced Plate competitions for each age group.