Summer League History
The Summer league came about because there was a huge surge in the youth population of Tower Hamlets in the 1990’s due to Bangladeshi families settling in the area and generally having larger families. This resulted in lack of youth provision for the local young people and as a result there were horrific incidence of gang violence between different housing estates and increase in drug taking, vandalism and crime. The young people also found it difficult to access mainstream youth service provisions due to language and cultural barriers and there was growing unease in the community as to how to deal with the issue. Many in the community decided to take action and the older youths formed BFA.
In 1997, BFA started the first Summer Football League in London with one division. Prior to the Summer League there were very few organised Bangladeshi football teams in London and the ones that were there they mainly played against each other in 5-a-side and 7-a-side tournaments. Many of these tournaments were badly organised, held in public parks and concrete pitches with no qualified referees to officiate the matches. Many ended in mass brawls and further violence between different groups of young people. All this started to change as BFA took the role of governing body for organising football for the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets.
The Summer League gave impetus for new teams to form and existing teams to organise themself better. New teams stared to emerge from different part of Tower Hamlets. Existing teams started to develop some of their players into qualified coaches and referees. Some went out to get shirt sponsorship and started training regularly. Others ventured out into playing 11-a-side football in mainstream winter leagues. Football was thriving and it motivated groups of young people to set up their own teams and become managers, coaches and officials for their teams. In the first couple of years the league allowed only 1 non-Bangladeshi player to play but this was relaxed in the latter years. This transformed the league as teams went out to get non-Bangladeshi players so they could win the league. Every year more and more non-Bangladeshi players registered and people from all backgrounds interested in football came together in one place with one mission.
Today the league has 4 divisions, 40 teams and more than 1,000 young people and adults participate from over 40 different nationalities. The majority of the users come from Tower Hamlets, with a small percentage coming from neighbouring boroughs: Hackney, Newham, Barking & Dagenham and Redbridge. Every year over 100 young people turning 16 join the league and many develop their personal and social skills by playing in the league. Now the league has become a place for young people of all backgrounds to socialise, relax, meet old friends and take part in competitive football without fear or violence and discrimination.
The Summer League ends with a gala awards ceremony. It is a prestigious event attended by special guests, professional footballers, businessmen, community leaders and the young people. It is an opportunity to recognise young people’s success and achievement in front of 500 people. Many young people use this as a platform to change their life and get their life back on track.
Founding Member Teams of Summer League
1. Beaumont Athletic
2. Bangladesh Youth Movement (BYM)
3. Hackney Probashi
5. Newark Youth London
6. Poplar Youth Association
7. Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO)
8. Shadwell Youth Organisation