From day 1, our goal has been simple. To provide an exciting, memorable footballing experience for children, coaches and parents throughout the UK. An experience which will be remembered and reminisced about with family and friends for years to come.
From Humble Beginnings
With four football mad sons aged between 5 and 11, much of Alan and Lucille Young’s free time was spent standing on the side lines at the weekend and ferrying the boys to and from training and matches – a position many of you will know all too well!
Based in Melton Mowbray, Alan played regularly for Melton Town FC, while the boys all played for the local junior football club, Mowbray Rangers FC. Alan was a keen supporter of Mowbray Rangers and sat on the club committee, where he inherited the role of organising the club tour for the 1986/87 season. Looking for a venue which was affordable, safe and secure, whilst offering an exciting weekend away for the children and parents, it was decided that the club would tour with their U10-U15 teams to Butlins Bognor Regis on the Sussex coastline.
The tour proved to be a great success with friendly fixtures arranged against local teams including Bognor Town Youth and Chichester Juniors. The children loved the excitement of the tour and the facilities and entertainment at Butlins and it was a great bonding experience for everyone at the club with over 200 people travelling down to the South Coast.
Whilst there, one of the Butlins team members made a throwaway comment that Alan should invite other clubs to join Mowbray Rangers on tour… and the rest, as they say, is history!
In the 1988/89 season invitations were sent to clubs around the country and the response was overwhelming. 120 youth teams and 3500 people took up the invitation and travelled to Butlins Bognor Regis in the Easter Holidays to take part in the inaugural Easter Festival of Football in 1989.
The festival proved to be a huge success and the response from the teams was fantastic. The combination of a well organised football festival, with teams from all over the UK participating, paired with the accommodation, facilities and entertainment on offer at Butlins was a fantastic formula for a great touring experience.
Recognising the demand, Alan and Lucille expanded the festival in 1990 to include venues in Ayr, Bognor Regis, Brean Sands and Morecambe. The numbers swelled to 400 teams and 8500 people and the feedback from those involved couldn’t have been better.
In the years that followed, new venues were added in throughout the Easter holidays and over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend in Camber Sands, Hemsby, Minehead, Morecambe, Scarborough, Skegness, Southport, Prestatyn and Pwllheli. The festival became the Easter & Spring Festival of Football, later to be abbreviated to ESF, as it is known today.
In 1994, girls football was added to the festival with five U14 girls football teams joining us at the Brean Sands festival. Since then, girls football has gone on to become a key element of ESF and we’re delighted to welcome 150 girls football teams to the festival every year.
In 2008, after numerous requests from teams, we started to look at the possibility of creating an International festival so that teams who wanted to travel a little further afield could do so with ESF. Sticking with the formula of finding the very best holiday resorts as a base for the festival, we were delighted to launch the International Youth Festival of Football at Disneyland Paris in 2010. The festival has attracted teams from all over France, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Turkey and even Brazil. It’s become a firm favourite on the ESF calendar.
With over 1100 teams and 35,000 people taking part every year, ESF has grown to become the biggest youth football festival in the UK. The festival is open to grassroots teams of all abilities, from those who wish to test themselves at the highest level, to those who are looking for a bit of fun at the end of the season, and everyone in-between.
We’re still a family business based in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Russell, Martyn and Lloyd Young (three of the four sons) now run the ESF office along with good friend Tom Robinson, with Alan and Lucille keeping a keen eye on the proceedings.
Our goal remains the same – to provide a memorable touring experience for everyone involved, one that the children will remember with fondness with their families and friends for years to come.
To achieve this, we have a continual focus on quality. We don’t claim to organise the cheapest tours available, we offer high quality events which are excellent value for money. ESF is staged exclusively at the very best holiday centres in the UK at Butlins and Haven, and Europe’s number one leisure resort, Disneyland® Paris. We provide quality accommodation, entertainment and leisure facilities throughout the weekend, combined with professional tournament organisation, celebrity presentation ceremonies and top quality trophies.
We would like to thank our loyal following of teams, supporters, tour organisers, referees, event organisers, first aid providers, photographers, partners and sponsors who have supported us over the 27 years, and who all help make ESF what it is today. We hope to welcome you all back to ESF for many more years to come.