Non-League Football day came and went last weekend. A new-wave occasion held during the first international break of the season. Much has already been written about the positive effects and the general feel-good benefits for those who admirably step out to lend their support to football clubs at local grassroots levels.
Those positive effects are clear to see. Walk into a pub near the ground and you are supporting local businesses, step onto the terraces and you are watching clubs who are fielding local players, players who largely come from the communities the club lives within. It is also a cheap afternoon out where you can take the kids and not worry that the cost will wipe out a high percentage of your weekly wage in under two hours. The people who run a standard non-league club have their roots in the community the club represents, sort of what Liverpool FC, and most profit orientated ‘bigger teams’, used to be about.
Many of us went out and supported our local teams last weekend, but is a once a year gesture enough? As football fans, do we think we are a bigger person for going to stand in a crowd of 300 spectators, watching your nearest team once a year? Is it just an easy to do thing when it’s an international weekend? Is the self-congratulatory pat on the back for a good deed well done the actual goal? Social media was dotted with ‘look at me’ posts, cheap pint in hand and a sparsely populated football ground in the backdrop, like a modern day footballing Alan Whicker.
Are we the tourists of the non-league teams? Are we the day-trippers turning up with our been there, done it badges of honour, not really knowing the songs and needing to ask where the correct turnstile is, being gutted about the pasties on offer and wondering where the BetVictor booth is? I think the case is there to be made.
I know a couple lads who support Prescot Cables home and away. Forget your away trips to swanky London or marvellous Manchester, these lads jump off a train at Burscough Bridge or Scarborough, as true die-hards. Game in, game out. I’m not brave enough to ask them what they think of the international weekend day-tripper, posing for selfies and chuckling in the wonderment of a cheap pint.
These lads might have a dabble in the mainstream game, siding red or blue, but no more than it being their ‘2nd love’. The Evo Stick First Division North is these lads’ bread and butter, so when there is a big game at Volair Park and the queue is at least half-an-hour for a pint because of an influx of once-a-year-heads, I would be a bit pissed off if I was a regular too. It’s a double sided coin. Thanks for added cash injection, but thanks for the patronising pat on the head too.
Leicester City come to Anfield on Saturday. Parched of ‘real football’ for the last fortnight we will embrace it passionately, with notions of a day out in the non-leagues allowed to drift out of mind once again.
Our attendance as non-league day-trippers once every blue moon has to benefit the clubs in some way, right? Of course it does, if you clicked through a non-league turnstile last weekend, then you did make a difference. Maybe take it upon yourself to do it again, but without prompting at some point soon though.
There is merit to organised days, but maybe greater organisation could be done? ‘Flash mob’ a specific struggling club perhaps? If Liverpool are playing on a Friday night’ or a Sunday afternoon, then let’s be organised and double the attendance of a pre-agreed non-league fixture one Saturday. You don’t have to wait for an international break to do it.
The last Cables game I went to was against Everton’s U23 team in a local cup final. They got battered on the pitch, but the money they made that day through admission fees and refreshment sales will have bolstered the club for the rest of the month. These clubs really do count every penny and go around switching the lights off.
The entire town turned out (in actual fact it was 865 in attendance, according to the Evo-Stik League website), on a night when it was £7 in and £2 for a can of Budweiser in a plastic cup. Ordering in Dominos and four pack of beer means a ‘cheap night in’ can set you back more than a live game of football and a bit of terrace culture.
I’m not trying to sell you an annual event, more an easily accessible product which is there nine months a year. Don’t just do your perceived once a year duty, keep them in mind for any of those achingly dull Saturdays we haven’t got a game. No-one should have to sit there, in front of the TV watching Charlie Nicholas and Paul Merson get over-excited because West Brom have given a penalty away. There’s a game going on somewhere nearby you could be at instead. Don’t wait for someone to tell you to go, just get up and go.