The Kent Schools’ Football Association is the county governing body for schools’ football (covering the County of Kent, Medway, Bexley and Bromley), as well as a registered educational charity. It came into being in 1921 as the Kent Schools’ Football Federation. In the first season nineteen member associations competed for the Fletcher Trophy, which had been deposited with the Midland Bank in Folkestone by the United States Army at the beginning of World War I, and not reclaimed. Today, now as HSBC, the bank maintain their close association with the KSFA, allowing us to use their excellent ground and facilities at New Beckenham. County matches were also played in the first season, among them four against touring sides from France: the first overseas matches at this level. Between 1921 and the outbreak of World War II, Kent played a total of 137 county matches, winning 63, losing 53 and drawing 21. During the same period other internal competitions were introduced, and in 1936 the County staged England v. Wales Schools’ International at Dover, a match that attracted a crowd of over 10,000. The County resumed its normal programme after World War II, and in 1948 played against Durham at Sunderland’s Roker Park before a crowd of 25,000 - a record attendance for a schools’ inter-county game and one that is unlikely to be beaten. In the Kent team on that occasion was Peter Broadbent, of Dover, who later had a distinguished career with Wolves and England. The range of activities and competitions continued to expand, and in 1971 the Federation amalgamated with Kent Senior Schools’ Football Association which had been organising school football for boys over the statutory leaving age and, in the main, catered for boys in the existing grammar schools. The new organisation became the Kent Schools’ Football Association.
Throughout its history, the County has been fortunate to have at its helm dedicated school teachers to create an organisation second to none in its reputation for all that is best in schools’ football, both on and off the field of play. Messers Greenstreet and Heather, both of Folkestone, and A.B. Taylor (who eventually retired in 1956, having become chairman of the English Schools’ FA) of Dover brought with them invaluable experience from their own successful district associations. They were joined by Charles Harvey of Chatham, and later by Harry White, both of whom also became chairmen of the E.S.F.A. More recently, and after Harry White’s retirement as secretary, Tony French (Howbury Grange School) and John FowIe (Tunbridge Wells GS) run the affairs of the association, until in 1984 Phil Harding (Harvey GS, Folkestone) became only the sixth secretary of the County in over sixty years. Another influential figure was Ted Harper (Bromley GS, now Ravensbourne) who, after a distinguished playing career formed the Kent Senior Schools’ F.A. in 1961, and, together with Alan Philpott (Harvey GS) and Alan Watson (Norton Knatchbull) enhanced the County’s reputation at the annual ESFA Festivals of Football.
The past three decades have seen the Kent Schools’ F.A. enjoy considerable success. Participation in its activities and competitions has reached record levels. The County has staged four Schools’ Internationals, at Gillingham FC’s Priestfield Stadium: England v Wales in 1984, England v The Netherlands in 1988, England v France in 1994, England v Northern Ireland in 2001, watched by over 20,000 spectators. A fifth international match, involved the girls’ Under 15 teams from England and The Republic of Ireland, was staged at Maidstone United in 2014, when a crowd of 865 (a record for a schoolgirls’ international) saw the home team triumph 8-0.
The managers of the various County teams have given generously of their time and expertise, and Kent teams have been successful in national competitions at home, as well as in Europe and the United States. In season 2001-2002, Kent teams enjoyed unprecedented success, winning four regional competitions and reaching two national finals, whilst in 2003-4 a further three regional titles were secured. In 2004-5 and 2013-14, the Kent Under 18 team won the ESFA County Championship. In 2010-11 the Kent Under 16 girls’ squad reached the ESFA National Final, a feat repeated by the Kent Under 14 girls’ squad in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the Kent Under 14 boys’ squad and the Kent Under 18 boys’ squad in 2014-15. In 2016-17, Kent achieved a unique double at Under 14 level, with the boys winning the National Final by beating Berkshire 4-0 at brimingham City FC, and the girls doing likewise with a 2-0 win over Lancashire at the same venue. Numerous foreign tours instigated by Richard Crutchfield have also characterised the KSFA’s activities in recent season, the most notable of these being the very prestigious Dallas Cup, in which two Kent teams participated in 2017.
At international level, an increasing number of Kent players have gained recognition:
Under 18- Kelvin Arterton (Gravesend GS), Rene Armstrong (Dover GS), Steven Aslett (Simon Langton GS); Tom Axford (Abbey School, Faversham), Paul Bates (Leigh CTC, Dartford), Robert Carter (Kemnal TC, Bromley), Adrian Clewlow (Sir Manwood’s GS, Sandwich), Frannie Collins (Chatham GS), Elliott Cutts (Simon Langton GS), Jeremy Goss (Pent Valley Secondary School, Folkestone), Tom Hadler (Simon Langton GS), John Hardwick (Tunbridge Wells THS), Lloyd Harrington (Abbey School, Faversham), Jason Hawes (Ravenswood, Bromley), Matthew Hollyoak (Tunbridge Wells GS), Douglas Lofts (St Simon Stock School, Maidstone), Sam Morrison (Aylesford School), Paul O’Brien (Dover GS), James O’Halloran (Wrotham School), Sam Orisakoti (Beths GS), Ian Parkes (Tunbridge Wells GS), Colin Reeves (Erith GS), Andrew Sambrook (Rainham Mark GS, Gillingham), Paul Sawyer (Dartford THS), Michael Scott, Maplesden Noakes, Maidstone), Josh Shonibare (Ravensbourne), Aaron Simpson (Maplesden Noakes School), Steven Slater (Ravensbourne School for Boys, Bromley), Chris Smalling (Chatham GS), Jamie Thornby (Norton Knatchbull School, Ashford), Ashley Ulph (Maidstone GS), Stephen White (Borden GS, Sittingbourne), Josh Wisson (Maplesden Noakes School), Josh Woolley (Maplesden Noakes School). Uniquely, four of these were selected in 2015-16: O’Halloran, Orisatoki, Shonibare and Wisson.
Notable among these is Chris Smalling who, on leaving school at the age of 18, was signed by Fulham, and subsequently transferred to Manchester United for a fee reputed to be £12million.
Under 15- Anthony Allman (Maidstone SFA), H. Cochrane (Greenwich SFA), George Crickson (Dover SFA), Jamie Day (North Kent SFA), lan Docker (Medway SFA), Jamie Donnelly (North Kent SFA), Billy Gilbert (Blackheath), D. Hancock (North Kent) Neill Howell (St Augustines), Paul Kelly (North Kent SFA), Jamie Kyte (North Kent SFA), Leslie Lines (Dover SFA), J.McGovern (Woolwich), Adam Molloy (Leigh Academy, Dartford), Alan Morgan (Dover SFA), B.Odeje (Blackheath SFA), Gavin Peacock (North Kent SFA), G. Penned (Greenwich SFA), Arthur Phebey (Lewisham SFA), Paul Robinson (North Kent SFA), Roger Saxby (Ashford & Weald SFA), R. Sheen (West Kent SFA), John Shepherd (North Kent SFA), J. Stenson (Blackheath SFA), A. Tracey (Gillingham SFA), Andrew Turner (North Kent SFA), E. Tucker (Rochester SFA), L. Vaissen (Bermondsey & Rotherhithe FA), R.Wade (Blackheath SFA), W.Whittaker (Greenwich SFA).
In 2013-14, Alessia Russo (St Simon Stock School) became the first girl from Kent to be selected for England Schools at the Under 15 age group. In 2014-15, Maddie Brant (Maidstone GGS) and Miri Taylor (Rainham SFG) were selected for the England Squad.
In addition to honours for players. Tony French was elected Chairman of the ESFA in 1987-88 and in 2003-4 Phil Harding held the same position in the ESFA’s Centenary Year. Kent schools have also been successful:
- 1989: Brampton Junior School (Bexley) won the Smiths Under 11 6-a-side
- 1990: Harvey GS reached the final of the ESFA Under 19 Individual Schools’ Competition
- 1998: Darrick Wood School were runners - up in the Under 16’s Girls’ Competition
- 1998: Welling School were national finalists in the Under 12 5-a-sides
- 2000: Maidstone GS reached the final of the ESFA Under 19 Cup
- 2000: Cator Park School for Girls (Beckenham) won the ESFA Under 13 final at Wembley
- 2002: Bexley won the ESFA National Under 11 Inter-Association 7-a-sides
- 2005: Greatstone Primary School were runners-up in the ESFA National Under 11 7-a-sides
- 2007: Ravenswood School (Bromley) won the ESFA Under 15 Cup in the final at Goodison Park
- 2012: St Francis School (Maidstone) were runners-up in the ESFA Under 11 National 7-a-sides
- 2012: Hayesbrook School (Tonbridge) were runners-up in the National Under 12 Futsal Finals
- 2013: Rainham School for Girls won the National Futsal Final
- 2014: St Columbas School (Bexleyheath) were runners-up in the ESFA Under 15 National Final at Sheffield Wed
- 2014: Ravenswood School won the ESFA Under 13 Cup in the final at the Madejski Stadium, Reading
- 2014: Howard School won the National Futsal Final
- 2015: Oakwood Park GS won the ESFA Under 14 Cup in the final at the Madejski Stadium, Reading
- 2015: Loose Junior School were runners-up in the ESFA National Under 11 7-a-sides (Girls)
- 2015: Boughton-under-Blean & Dunkirk were runners-up in the ESFA National Under 11 7-a-sides (Small Schools)
- 2017: Beths GS won the ESFA Under 14 Cup
Today, the Kent Schools’ Football Association is one of the strongest and most successful schools’ organisations in the country, that maintains the high standards and traditions set by those dedicated schoolmasters who established the Association, but at the same time keeps pace with the ever-changing educational scene, including being at the forefront of girls’ football, to ensure that young footballers in Kent continue to enjoy the best that schools’ football has to offer.
Currently, the KSFA’s activities involve over 25,000 young people each season and the KSFA runs:
- 10 county representative teams
- 13 inter-school knock-out competitions for secondary schools
- An Under 19 League, which compromises 100 teams in 8 divisions
- 6 inter-district competitions at secondary level
- 6 Futsal competitions for secondary schools in conjunction with the Kent County FA
- 3 inter-school Under 11 competitions for schools – part of the ESFA competition framework
- A league, two 9-a-side cup competitions, a festival, and 4 small-sided tournaments for Under 11 district teams