Non-League football in England can be considered to be like Marmite: either you like it or you just don’t like it. For some, being able to get into a game of football for little more than the price of a pint to be something they want to do as often as possible. However, for some, watching a bunch of people run around a pitch playing football that is of a standard not much higher than you could play yourself isn’t their cup of tea. I, however, am very much with the former. The appeal of non-league football for me is being able to stand in the fresh air amongst a couple of hundred other people, being right up close and personal with the football, and the players (who you will hear shouting across the pitch, normally with a fair amount of swearing mixed in), and for those over the legal age, being able to stand on the terraces with a pint of beer.
Now, living in Gibraltar, being able to watch non-league football in England is a rarity for me, and I’ve only been able to go to two non-league grounds; Croydon Athletic’s Keith Tuckey Stadium (Croydon Athletic being in the media for all the wrong reasons recently, regarding their owner and his alleged involvement in the Pakistani cricket match fixing scandal), for a home game last season between Croydon Athletic and Merstham, a 1-0 win for the home side, and Nantwich Town’s Weaver Stadium (to watch a pre-season friendly between Nantwich Town and Port Vale, which ended up 6-2 to Vale). Both days were very good fun, and come second in footballing experiences to my first match at Anfield last season (the 4-1 win at home to Benfica). However, when I go to university (hopefully in 2 years time), I will attend many more football matches, and my Saturday’s will involve a lot more than watching Jeff and the boys on Soccer Saturday at 4pm.
Now, you may wonder why I am writing this article. The reason for this is that Saturday 4th September 2010 is Non-League Day (http://www.nonleagueday.co.uk/) This campaign was started up by a couple of non-league fans who, seeing that there were no Premiership and Championship games on, decided that they would try to get these fans to go down to their local non-league side, to go watch what some see as “proper” football. The incentive has soon caught on, and many non-league clubs are offering discounted prices for fans who show their season ticket from a club in one of the four professional leagues, to give more incentive for fans to go.
‘Non-League Day’ has gained decent media coverage, and the creators even made a map of stadiums which have a game on this day (http://www.nonleagueday.co.uk/clubs/) I think that this is a great idea, and if fans of clubs who have no game on the 4th September turned up to their local non-league club, there would be benefits for both sides. The clubs would benefit financially, which could mean the difference between survival and extinction for some clubs, and some fans might enjoy the experience so much they find themselves going to watch them play whenever their main team isn’t playing at 3pm on a Saturday, or have a long away trip, something which is a regular occasion for the big clubs in the Premiership.
In essence, there is no harm to go out and support Non-League Day, and there is even the chance of winning VIP tickets to the Blue Square Premier Playoff final, at Wembley (http://www.fsf.org.uk/non-league-day.php), and, for the price of one or two pints of beer at your local pub, you could go to a football club, and have a very good day.
So please, go out this Saturday, and visit your local non-league club; You never know, you may find yourself going back there more often.