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When the West Riding FA celebrated its Centenary in 1996 it was quickly followed by Member Districts like Bradford and Huddersfield reaching the same milestone.

Why then is Leeds, the largest district within the County, lagging some 5 years behind?   The answer lies in the County FA records which show that at the outset, Leeds was represented by two separate Associations.  viz  Leeds North and Leeds South.

 In the interests of uniformity the two bodies were encouraged to merge and in 1901 a constitution was drawn up which was acceptable to all parties and Leeds & District FA was formed, the President being Mr. A Tordoff and Secretary, Mr, W Rawlinson.

Unfortunately, due to the absence of early minute books, there is no record of the Associations progress up to the First World War.   However, after the war the Association resumed its efforts to promote football in the area by encouraging clubs, old and new, to play the game and persuade all Leagues and Competitions to become members.

Another innovation following the war, which is a good indication of the social climate of the times, was the introduction of the ‘Footballers Sunday’, when in March each year players and officials attended a Memorial Service at the YMCA followed by the laying of a wreath at the War memorial.   These services continued into the 1930’s when, presumably due to lack of support, they were discontinued.   

In 1926 the Association elected Mr. E Rickerby as President, an office he held until 1961 (35 years).   The following year Mr. W Dickinson was elected Treasurer and he also remained in office until 1961 (34 years).   In addition, Mr. Dickinson fulfilled the duties of Secretary for 10 years from 1951 to 1961.   The many years of service from these two gentlemen had a very stabilising effect on the Association and gave strong leadership.

As far back as the 1920’s the Association had the foresight to create the Accident Fund.   In fact, the Treasurer’s Report of 1927 records 130 clubs in membership with claims amounting to £241.00 and a surplus on the year of £27.00.   The accident Fund is today as strong as ever and continues to provide a great service to local clubs.

In 1927 the County FA inaugurated a Cup Competition for the District Association Minor players under the age of 16.   Leeds FA were the first winners beating Huddersfield, Halifax and Wakefield.

In the same year Whitehall Printers FC won the Leeds FA Senior Cup.   They were undoubtedly one of the strongest teams of that era and in 1936 reached the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup.

In those early years the Association had strong links and good relations with Leeds United AFC and regularly played the Senior Cup Final at Elland Road during the Easter period.

These fixtures were usually well attended and the gate receipts formed the main source of the Associations income.   In the 1930’s it was the Associations ambition to achieve a ‘Gate’ of 10,000 at the Final but this figure was not realised until 1947 when the Final between Yorkshire Amateur and Leeds UYMI was watched by spectators in excess of that figure.   The teams were so evenly matched that the game went to a second replay before UYMI won. All three games being played at Elland Road.

 Further indications of the strong ties between the Association and Leeds United are that in 1935 a match between the two took place on Jubilee day for the King George Jubilee Trust Fund and the following season a similar game was played on behalf of the Leeds Workpeoples Hospital Fund.

We may think that player misbehaviour is a product of present times, but at the 1931 AGM the President appealed for clubs to “dispense with players who offend against referees” – Nothing changes !

In 1932 the Association recognised the need for organised football for boys in the 14/16 age group and the Leeds Minor League grew steadily in strength and numbers and in 1937 the Association broke new ground by organising a Youth Summer Coaching Camp at Abergale, North Wales, for young boys.   This was repeated in 1938 when 150 boys attended and caught the interest of the Football Association to the extent that Sir Stanley Rous visited the camp.   The 1939 camp was held at Blackpool. 

The steady growth of football in Leeds was creating problems in finding pitches and the Association was regularly taking the Local Authority to task over the lack of pitches or suitable changing facilities within the local parks.

The outbreak of war in 1939 decimated local football, but the Association was determined to keep going with a reduced number of teams plus a number of  Service’s teams from military units based in the area.   Again the President demonstrated his wisdom and foresight by stating  “I am certain that the future of football will depend on what is done now for boys and junior players”

The next season the Association launched a “Play Football” campaign supported by the local press.   The campaign was instrumental in gaining 20 teams for the Minor League.

Throughout its history the Association had shown a keen interest in the recruitment and training of Referees and has worked closely with the Referee’s Association in its aim to have sufficient Referees to staff all games.   For many years Referee training was in the capable hands of Mr. G Wilson whose reputation as an instructor spread country wide.

He was later assisted by Mr. J J Russell who also became the first Referees Appointment Secretary when in 1950 the Association started its own Appointments system to try to alleviate shortages in the West Yorkshire, Red Triangle, Combination and Allied Churches leagues.

Referees from the Association who have attained the highest honours include…   A Luty,  J J Russell, H Webb, H Jackson, R E Raby, G Kew, T L Morris and J McAulay.

 The 1948 season saw the revival of the Inter League Competition which was won by the Red Triangle League, defeating the West Yorkshire League in the Final.   Also that year a revision of the District boundaries by the County FA brought Halton, Seacroft and Crossgates within the Leeds FA when they had hitherto been part of Barkston Ash FA.

Problems of insufficient or inadequate playing areas still persisted and in 1952 the Playing Fields Committee was formed with the aim of continuing to press the Local Authority for improvements.

With the number of clubs in membership growing, the need for a second Cup Competition was recognised and 1952 saw the creation of the “District Cup” for teams eliminated in the first round of the Senior Cup plus reserve teams.

By the mid 1950’s many of the people whose names are familiar to us today were established as Members of the Council, men like E Armitage, R Bates, W Else, F Escritt, R G Everitt, W Hollingworth, K Houlden, C pagdin, D Pickersgill, W Paley, J Riggs, W Riminton, J J Russell, H Copley, W Collier – and its pleasing to record that one of them is celebrating with us this evening.

In 1960 the death of Mr. W Dickinson left the Association without a Secretary and, after interviewing the applicants on 6th December 1960, Mr A C Taylor was appointed to the position and remained in office as Secretary or Treasurer until 1991 when he became President.

The most significant event in football for the last 50 years was when the FA sanctioned Sunday Football and in 1962 the Leeds Sunday league and its affiliated clubs were accepted as members of the District FA.

By the 1963/64 season there were 50 Sunday teams registered and the District Sunday Cup Competition was established with Shaftesbury United the first winners.   The next 15 years saw the number of Sunday teams grow, whilst Saturday football suffered a decline, some Leagues folding as a result.   The increased participation on Sunday led to the start of a second Cup Competition in 1971 – The Sunday District Cup – and a third in 1978 – The Sunday Jubilee Cup.  The predominance of Sunday football over Saturday still exists.

Another major milestone in the Associations history occurred in 1968 when, at the request of the City Council, a representative side travelled to Lille to take part in a Twin Town Tournament. 

These visits were repeated in 1970, 72, 74 and 76 when, having remained unbeaten throughout the group games, Leeds lost to Lille in the Final by 2-1.   

In 1977 an International Twin Town Committee was formed with A C Taylor as Vice Chairman with the object of having the Competition in other locations.

In 1977 it was staged at Beauvois and 1978 Leeds hosted the tournament and won.   1979 saw the team visit Dortmund and we returned to Lille in ’81, after which the competition faltered due to the retirement of Committee Members.   In 1988 the Leeds FA along with the City Council attempted to revive the competition by inviting the twinned Cities to Leeds but we met with only partial success, with Lille, Dortmund and Siegen being the only foreign acceptances.

The game of football continues to flourish at grass roots level and, under the guidance of the Football Association, is adaptable to changes witnessed in recent years by the development of Mini-Soccer for children up to the age of 11 years and by the moves to encourage and develop the involvement of women and girls in the game.

The Association has been fortunate over the years to have excellent guidance and leadership from its principal officials and these have been capably supported by so many others in offices such as Referee’s Appointments, Youth, Accident Fund and Playing Fields secretaries and by Council Members.   As we move into the 21st Century we are confident that future generations will continue to produce people of dedication and commitment ready to meet the challenges which lie ahead.