The match was a culmination of years of hard work, delays and planning. Organisers Andrew Smurthwaite and Peter Overton – both police detectives themselves – originally scheduled the ESFL to start in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything into uncertainty. Fortunately, the passion and eagerness of the teams who applied meant Andrew and Peter were able to delay kick-off until conditions were safer, and so in August 2021, the inaugural season of the ESFL began.
Over 75 teams from NHS trusts, fire services, police federations and prisons across the country played one other in matches that were scheduled in a way flexible enough to fit around their ever-changing shift patterns. Split into 12 leagues, they battled for a place in the tournament stage, which culminated in the exciting final.
The location for the final was very generously offered to the ESFL by League One team Bolton Wanderers. Neil Hart, the team’s CEO, said “It’s an honour to be working closely with staff and teams from our magnificent emergency services. We look forward to welcoming the two finalists and hope this is the start of a close relationship between Bolton Wanderers and the ESFL.”
Being able to play in a national-level stadium took the final to another level. The use of their facilities and the appearance of the official Bolton Wanderer’s club photographer captured the match in exquisite detail – we have him to thank for these amazing pictures.
The match itself was hard fought – West Yorkshire and Hampshire played each other to a stalemate in the first half, and some of the second. This was, in no small part, thanks to West Yorkshire’s goalkeeper James Alderson, who pulled off some astounding saves to kept Hampshire at bay. His performance was more than enough to earn him man of the match.
It wasn’t until the 66th minute that Ash Andrews found a crack in Hampshire’s defences, drilling the ball into the goal from a wide cross. After that, the floodgates were opened: Kurtis Summerhill delivered the second with a header off a precision free kick, and Joe Angell successfully put away an 81st minute penalty.
Motor Source managing director Steve Thornton was there to hand West Yorkshire captain Max Halmshaw the ESFL championship trophy, bringing the season to an official close. “It’s been a privilege to be title sponsors of the ESFL and provide these every day heroes a place to compete and enjoy themselves. Andrew and Peter have delivered a wonderful experience and we can’t wait for what the new season has in store.”
The success of the EFSL can’t be overstated, managing to organise teams from every emergency service across the country to enjoy some competitive football. Even with this accomplishment under their belt, Peter and Andrew’s are setting their sights on expansion, with the 2022/23 season adding an open age, women's and veterans' league. We at Motor Source look forward to further supporting the league and are eager to welcome a diverse range of new players.