Specifically in the UK, the footballing pyramid is rooted deep within hundreds of different communities throughout the country, and non-league football has a number of charming benefits for their fans. So, here’s why it’s becoming more important than ever to support your local team, and why it might be an option that benefits you, too.
Is Non-League Football Fun to Watch?
I’ll be honest, it’s not exactly the level of the Premier League.
Quite frankly, it’s barely the level of any professional league – and that’s kind of the point.
Whichever way you package it, there’s not much tactical nuance or fluidity ensconced within any of the various levels of the non-league football pyramid in the UK.
More often than not, committing to go and watch a game at this level in the flesh is an unofficial commitment to the world of ‘hit it and hoof’, ‘letting your opposite number know he’s in the game’ and language probably not befitting much of a family atmosphere.
But this is what the purists will want to say that the game is ‘all about’. After all, this is where the higher levels of football is derived. Though the differences between the two are as clear as day.
Let me rephrase: it’s significantly cheaper.
Especially in the age of commercialism in the Premier League, the ticketing world has moved out of the realms of the everyday fan and into those with the biggest pockets.
In truth, it was a part of the reason for why big leagues went this way to begin with.
Revenue strategies were changed, the broadcasting arrangements followed and it meant that the elevated costs of running a club had to be offset onto the consumer. It’s just pure, unbridled, callous economics and it’s affecting every last one of us.
And with the economic impacts of football (among other things) growing, it becomes even more imperative for your money to stretch even further.
So, spending upwards of £50 on Premier League football is one thing.
But £5 for a pillar of your local community is something entirely different. A much smaller financial outlay, for a much greater list of benefits. An affordable balance that many in this country will want to take on moving into the new year.
Supporting Grassroots Football
Without this, football in this country would cease to exist.
For every nouveau-riche baller blinded by floodlights which cost more to run that a day in the life of a non-league game, there are kids and young adults trying to make it.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, the football system is nigh-on broken.
Oh sure, you can go ahead and play for local U-5 to U-12 sides with the hope that a Manchester United scout spots your 40-yard screamer from a few miles away, but the reality is that players who go through academy systems barely ever make it.
Depressingly, it’s believed that about 0.5% of academy talents graduate into the professional stage of their club, and that the probability of a kid without a team ever making is at the higher levels is a woeful 0.018%.
So, non-league football represents another avenue for these players to have a chance at the big time, with a number of high-profile examples coming through this way.
Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy is a wonderful example of talented players whose drive, talent (and a little bit of luck) took him from a tagged-up roughian at FC Halifax Town to a Premier League champion at Leicester City in less than 7 seasons.
But without the support of fans like us to keep these teams running, support their fledgling players or even sharing their stories on social media, it might not keep happening.
What a terrible shame that would be.
The Family-Friendly Environment
An issue with high-level football is that its catchment area is very wide. And hooliganism / ‘ultra’ behaviour has become annoyingly common in the upper echelons of the game.
By contrast, non-professional football provides a unique matchday experience.
By there being fewer fans, it naturally would mean that there’s a lesser chance of things spilling out of proportion and for that to alienate groups of fans from attending.
But also, there’s a whole different outlook for attending a football match at this level.
It’s not really about spending loads of your hard-earned money to follow a ‘huge’ club only to bellow and shout at the unattainable lads at pitch level for not going what ‘you could have done’. Instead, these players are a heck of a lot more relatable.
Oh, and they can probably hear whatever you have to say.
With this in mind, there appears to be far more fan accountability at grounds like these where the atmosphere (though fun-filled and enjoyable), is much quieter and digestible than what we see in a 70,000-capacity stadium like Old Trafford, for example.
Plus, non-league football is crying out for long-term investment (both in money and in interest) from their fans, and are gearing up to attract these groups.
So it pays for them to have a family-friendly atmosphere. Be them experiences, family ticket prices, ‘kids go free passes’ or even half-time shows. Non-league football is getting with the times and all for the benefit of providing an experience that bigger teams won’t.
Plus, the food is a lot better. For this, I suggest following ‘Footy Scran’ on Twitter – there, you’ll see the difference between a £15 small burger & chips at Arsenal, and a fulfilling £4 hot dog from FC United of Manchester. I know which one I’m picking.
How to Make Contacts in the Football Industry
Have you ever tried contacting a professional team before?
It’s probably a better use of your time to send it through a pigeon.
I remember being in university and striving more than ever to work in football. But no matter how hard I tried, no club in the EFL would even write back to me.
Only now, do I really understand why they didn’t: it’s because they’re too busy. Commercial deals, thousands of fan requests, ticketing problems, logistics issues with going to more than one tournament. Why would they reply to me?
Well, non-league football clubs can use all the help they can get and it’s only when I reached out to teams like Wembley FC, Northwood FC and Hashtag United, that I finally received the type of email that I’d been hoping for months earlier. And much quicker.
I ended up building a commercial department for Wembley FC which kept us going during the pandemic and Hashtag’s player sponsorship activation was organised by me.
Not only am I very proud of both those things, but I spoke to a lot of people along the way.
These people are also far more forthcoming with information on how to get into the football industry provided you have the drive and direction on what you want to do when you get there. This is how you find your ideal role and potentially a long-term mentor.
Of course, this isn’t an exact science and will always depend on your ability to work with people and to spot opportunities when they come about.
But there’s no escaping the fact that non-league football is easily the most open and encouraging setting within which to build that contact list.
In truth, this is an article I expect we’ll update a lot here at Hobby FC.
Non-league football is not only an area which is developing as the seasons go by, but there are far more advantages than what we’ve been able to list here so far.
It will always depend on where you’re based as to how you’re going to be able to access this section of the pyramid (for example, there are nearly 20 non-league clubs in London which is far more than any other city).
But if I were you, use a website like MyFootyGrounds to find the best non-league football grounds nearest to you, research their social media, check out where they are in the league and go down and watch a game if it makes you feel a certain way.
Like I said earlier, it’s far cheaper, more personal and you could end up developing your football career in a way that wouldn’t be facilitated at a higher level.
Do you support your local team?