Football’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), estimates that there were approximately 250 million professional and amateur players and over 1.3 billion people ‘interested’ in football around the world at the turn of the 21st century; in 2010 an estimated television audience of more than 26 billion people watched the World Cup finals live – and that didn’t include those who watched it via their electronic devices or tuned in for re-runs.

The word sport, meaning ‘organised games participation’, first appeared in the Oxford English dictionary in the 1863 edition. Before then, and until the early 1880s, pastimes such as football, cricket, horse racing and sailing were the pursuits of gentlemen amateurs from the social elite of English society. The development of modern football really began with industrialisation in Victorian Britain. From the 1850s onward, institutions such as churches, trade unions, and schools organised working-class boys and men into recreational football teams. Industrial workers began to gain new rights to leisure time, and competitive football matches began to be organised between factory workers and then town teams. Rising adult literacy generated press coverage, and modern forms of transport enabled players and spectators to travel to games. Average attendance in England rose from 4,600 in 1888 to 13,200 in 1905, and reached 23,100 by the outbreak of World War I.

Nick Cole has been Chairman of the Church Stretton Town Football Club (CSTFC) for about eight years. He’s had a fair amount of experience in the town’s various teams across different ages groups, especially with the Church Stretton Magpies Junior Football, which has a girls’ team as well as one for boys, and in his playing career with CSTFC.

The club’s home ground is on Russell’s Meadow, which has been a football ground since the 1930’s, when local teams were formed. For newcomers to the Strettons, Russell’s Meadow is accessible via the little car park on Lutwyche Road, opposite the northern end of Beaumont Road. The new pavilion, which replaced the old one in 2015 at a cost of £150k, was 15 years in the planning and fund raising. A ‘buy a brick’ campaign raised some of the money in the early 2000s, but not quite enough to get the project off the ground. More community fund-raising, grants provided by Shropshire Council and other local sports clubs, businesses and organisations, plus the Football Association’s ‘grass roots’ fund, finally brought the dream into reality. The building has four changing rooms, two rooms for referees, ample storage space for equipment, a kitchen with a handy serving hatch onto the field, and a common room. It’s available to hire, too – always a good option for this busy town.

Nick says, “Ten committee members manage the club on a day-to-day basis, and there is a squad of 25 players with a good local following of supporters to both home and away matches. Training sessions are held weekly on Russell’s Meadow in the summer months and Shrewsbury Sports Village, which is at Sundorne Rd, Shrewsbury SY1 4RQ, in the winter. Newcomers are always welcome, but please let us know in advance if you’d like to sample a training session.” Word-of-mouth is the most common method by which new members are introduced, although the majority of players in the adult team come through progression from junior ranks. However, anyone who has the stamina for 90 minutes of game time, and can kick a ball accurately, is welcome to try-out.

The Club is a member of the Salop Leisure Football League, and enters the League Cup and the Shropshire Challenge Cup every year. Last season (2022/23) they won the League Cup and were runners up in the Shropshire Challenge Cup, praise worthy achievements, certainly. For the majority of away matches players and staff car share or, on odd occasions, there’s a mini-bus. As for training, and the welfare and safety of players and staff, the club is an FA (Chartered Standard) Football Club and operates a welfare/safe guarding policy according to their principles and methods. Training is provided through the Shropshire Football Association.

Nick, again, “As with most volunteer-led local clubs of all kinds, the CSTFC relies heavily on sponsorship. This year’s sponsors are The Ragleth Inn, Wrights Estate Agents, Britpart, SA Accountancy and Tough Furniture. We’re very grateful to them all, and we hope we can do them proud.” So, dear reader, if you’d like to experience the camaraderie, the benefits and the highs and lows of football at first hand, rather than just from your couch, contact Nick on or phone 07778 908012. Have fun!

Christine Williams Resident Journalist of the Stretton FocusResearched with thanks to and the Shropshire Star