Collaboration ends tug-of-war between Waikato schools and clubs for players

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Collaboration between Waikato secondary schools, the Hamilton City Council and clubs has enabled many young players to now turn out for their school and their local club.

The Waikato Secondary Schools (WSSFA) Premier Competitions will now go ahead on Thursday and Friday nights in Hamilton, enabling players to represent clubs at weekends.

All WSSFA games are now played under lights at Gower Park with the Premier Girls league on Thursday nights, and the Premier Boys on Fridays.

Main photo: Premier Boys football at Gower Park. Photo credit: WaiBOP Football.

While one-off games have been held midweek in the past, this is the first time these competitions have been scheduled on weekdays for an entire season.

Previously, secondary school and club leagues both took place on weekends, and has historically created conflict, with some players having to choose to represent their school or play for their club.

The challenge of midweek games became one of lighting, and installing and upgrading floodlights across the region.

It had been an issue for the team at WaiBOP Football who had been seeking a solution with clubs, schools, and local councils for several years.

The Women’s World Cup provided additional impetus and funding, and in 2023, Hamilton City Council completed floodlighting installations at Korikori Park in Rototuna North, Porritt Stadium in Chartwell, and Gower Park near Hamilton Lake.

Premier Girls school football underway at Gower Park on Thursdays. Photo credit: WaiBOP Football.

WaiBOP Football said it would like to acknowledge Hamilton clubs Melville United, Hamilton Wanderers, Claudeland Rovers, West Hamilton United and Northern United, who collaborated on the project with the Hamilton City Council, WSSFA, schools and other stakeholders to make mid-week secondary schools football a reality.

“We would also like to acknowledge former MP, David Bennett, who was involved in pushing this project early on,” WaiBOP Football said.

Hamilton City Council secured $2.3m through key partners and investors to support the project.

Funding partners include Trust Waikato (a founding project partner), Lottery Grants Board, WEL Energy Trust, and the Ministry of Business and Innovation.

“In addition to the costs to get this infrastructure in place come ongoing running and operational costs. WaiBOP with support from WEL Energy Trust are contributing to the operational costs to ensure that these additional costs do not get passed on to the players, and become a barrier to participation.”


We are grateful to WaiBOP Football for providing information for this story.

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