Football has become a religion for Armley

Armley CCFC
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Merged club Armley CCFC are finding life in the Yorkshire Christian Football League very much to their liking. Lee Sobot reports.

Armley’s Kris Broughton has spent most of his football life looking for a football club sent from heaven.

Quite often – especially during huge success with both Travellers Rest Armley and Armley Conservative Club – he’s seemingly found it. Yet it is the merger of Armley Conservative Club with Armley Christ Church into the Yorkshire Christian Football League that for Broughton really has been sent from above.

Broughton, 33, is player-manager and secretary for the recently formed Armley CCFC whose initials have two meanings. Because as well as being a nod to the Armley Conservative Club team from which they were formed – Broughton’s team’s initials also represent the Armley Christ Church that has given the team something of a second coming.

Formed in 2007 as a spin-off from Broughton’s former club Travellers Rest Armley, Armley Conservative Club enjoyed four fine years in the Leeds Combination League until success began to dwindle at around the turn of the decade.

A foray into the Leeds Sunday Alliance failed to provide the club’s saving grace and in 2012 Armley Conservative Club folded. But Broughton then found inspiration with Armley Christ Church, quite literally becoming the former Armley Conservative Club’s saviour. Armley-born Broughton, a duty manager at Armley Sports Centre, is no religious fanatic – merely a believer in God who takes his young family to Armley Christ Church once a month.

And after hearing about the success of the Yorkshire Christian Football League, Broughton had an idea on how his recently folded football club could rise from the ashes.

With the help of youth pastor Anthony Leotan, Armley Christ Church launched a new football team last summer in conjunction with members of Broughton’s former Armley Conservative Club team.

It has meant swapping life in the more established Leeds Combination for the Yorkshire Christian Football League but Broughton says he’s never been happier in a league the Armley CCCFC manager says his men feel blessed to be a part of.

Broughton explained: “We had some good success with Armley Conservative Club in the Combination – we went from Division Five up to Division One – but then we lost a lot of players.

“We went into the Leeds Sunday Alliance but that wasn’t the answer and the club folded, but in 2013 we decided to give it one last go. We had a meeting and decided to change the direction of the club. We wanted to form a Saturday team and we applied to join the Yorkshire Christian Football League.

“My assistant manager Neil Carrington and I had been to watch several games the previous season and we were taken aback by the respect teams showed referees as well as one another. The league prides itself on fair play and we wanted to be a part of it so we contacted Armley Christ Church and we haven’t looked back.

“People have got this perception about the league where they think that everyone has to be Christians but that’s not really the case. The league committee members are Christians and the league does promote Christianity. But it doesn’t mean that you have to have Christian players and each team just has to be sanctioned by a church, church group or church organisation. I’m not a big Christian, I just go to church when I can.”

The initial roots of CCFC actually date back to around 1991 when Broughton’s parents Dave and Pam, plus junior football coach Billy Kane, created junior club Wortley Wanderers out of the Wortley Boys juniors for whom a young Broughton played to provide more youngsters with regular football. Broughton and close friend Carrington stayed with Wortley Wanderers until they reached the end of the junior football road, after which the group created an open age Sunday league football team in 2000 – Travellers Rest Armley from the pub in which the 11th Leeds Boys Brigade company met. Operating in the Leeds Combination League, Travellers Rest Armley zoomed up the divisions into the Jubilee Premier and the team still exists now as AFC Travellers. But in 2007 Broughton decided to go it alone and set up a new club – Armley Conservative Club – as player manager.

That venture lasted six years before folding, but it has ultimately led to life at Armley CCFC in the Yorkshire Christian League, and Broughton could not be happier.

“We’re really happy with where we are,” said Broughton, who has previously played for Eccleshill United, Liversedge and Armley Athletic’s Saturday side.

“We obviously have the support of Armley Christ Church and we play out of Armley Conservative Club as our social headquarters – plus we have a new pitch this year at Armley Park which is better than Moorfield Road where we were last year. And all the clubs we play against within the league are welcoming and have really good facilities, which is better than a council pitch on a Sunday morning! There’s a bit of travelling to do as there are teams from Hull, York, Knaresborough, Harrogate, Selby and so on. But we like the travelling and it’s like Saturday football used to be.”

It would appear that the relationship between Armley CCFC and the Yorkshire Christian League is here to stay and Broughton was probably destined to end up playing in the Christian League. The Armley-based footballer, whose 30-year-old brother Scott was once on the books at Sheffield Wednesday, is married to Kristy and the couple have continued the ‘k’ tradition by naming their sons Isaak and Oskar respectively. The duo are three- years-old and two respectively, but already have the football bug.

“They are already football mad and I suspect they’ll be following in my footsteps.”

And Broughton will have no hesitation recommending the Yorkshire Christian League – the player-manager feeling the league is misconstrued and is a match for any of the Leeds Sunday leagues – on and off the field.

Centre-forward Broughton added: “A lot of people don’t even know the league exits but the standard is much better than a lot of the Sunday Leagues I have seen recently. You don’t have to be a Christian to play in the league and we’re just a normal bunch of lads. Most of players like a drink the same as anyone else!”