We all know that Non League football is going through a tough time. At the top end of the pyramid, clubs like Luton Town, Wrexham and Grimsby Town are operating almost as League clubs still, whilst the “upstarts” of Forest Green Rovers and Newport County have wealthy owners who are gambling on the next step. The crowds are comparable with their Football League cousins as too are the wage bills. But even in the top division there exists the “have” and “have-nots”. This season the Blue Square Bet Premier features ten clubs who have Football League experience in the past. Most of these still retain a Football League business model. But at the other end of the spectrum the Conference hosts teams such as Braintree Town, Hyde, Nuneaton, Alfreton and Tamworth. Clubs who survive on crowds as low as 600 in the case of some of these, competing with full-time outfits. Even in the Premier League the comparison between the likes of Man City and United and Fulham and Wigan Athletic is not so stark.
Many clubs reach the Blue Square Bet Premier, but soon slide back down, with the financial burden simply too much. The season Lewes spent in the top-level of non league football some five years ago almost cost the club its very existence. Forced to put in additional turnstiles, segregation and other ground-grading criteria, the clubs fail to see additional fans come through the turnstiles to prop up the other side of the balance sheet. No investment on the pitch soon sees a season long fight against the drop, and with four going down it is hard to escape. Some clubs are simply too good for the regional Blue Square Bet North/South but not able to compete in the league above. One such club is Ebbsfleet United.
Last weekend the Chairwomen of the club made a dramatic appeal to the fans:-
“In all seriousness and joking aside, now is the time to stand up and be counted. Whether you are MyFC, Fleet Trust, both or one of our loyal supporters who just enjoys watching the Fleet, please lose your pounds now!
The unfortunate timing of the weather and home fixtures being cancelled has really left the club strapped for cash and the coffers are bare!
LOSE YOUR POUNDS OR LOSE YOUR CLUB!!!!!
The Football Club is asking EVERY MyFootballClub member, EVERY Fleet Trust Member and EVERY Supporter near and far to donate a minimum amount of £30.00 or as much as you can afford to save the club.
Please do not ignore this plea, it is very real and has been decided as a last resort today here at the club.” Continue reading
Kieran Knowles discusses the possibility of an Ultras movement in the Non Leagues.
On the 22nd of April this year the match between Genoa and Siena was famously held up after a group of the home club’s Ultra supporters, irate at their teams abject performance, began to throw objects onto the pitch. With Genoa trailing 4-0 the fans imprisoned the team on the field by blocking their entrance to the tunnel and, once the referee had suspended play, demanded the Genoa players remove their shirts and hand them over as they felt them not fit to wear them. Most players complied and it took the negotiating skills of midfielder Giuseppe Sculli to get the shirts returned so play could continue.
On the 2nd of July this year on the message-board of an unofficial Macclesfield Town website a few of the clubs Ultra supporters debated, in the language of excitable children, whether or not they would be sneaking a flare into the Stockport County ground during the Silkmens away fixture there this coming Tuesday.
In the late 1960’s Italian clubs Sampdoria and Torino were amongst the first to use the label with the creation of their ‘Ultras Tito Cucchiaroni’ and ‘Ultras Granata’ groups. During the 1970’s the movement spread across Italy as more Ultra groups were born and their influence within their parent club increased. By the 80’s and 90’s the movement had started to spread out across Europe into countries such as Germany and the Netherlands and the power wielded by such groups meant they could negotiate cheaper tickets and early access into the stadiums in order to prepare their displays. Continue reading
Brian Parish brings us news from Dagenham’s opening day trip to Cheshire.
After the relaxing atmosphere of pre-season, yesterday marked the start of the 2011/12 Football League season. When we got promoted to the league four years ago, we would have been happy to have lasted a year or two before heading back to the Conference. But here we are, still in the Football League for a fifth year. Last season was good fun, and although we were relegated, we could at least sit back and bask in the fact that, for one year at least, we were in the same division as some big names of the not too recent past.
Of course, now that we have had that year in League One, there is for the first time in quite a few years, a level of expectation that is not normal for our little club. After all, if we can get promotion from this division once, then why can’t we do it again?
A quick look through the division shows a few teams that have missed out on promotion in the last few years (Torquay and Rotherham having lost the last two play off finals), plus arguably the biggest club in the division, Bradford City, who surely can’t be as bad again as they have been the last few years. Continue reading
Dagenham & Redbridge 3 Macclesfield Town 0
27th April 1996
Made in Dagenham
Most of my friends growing up all had pretty awesome first football matches. Glamour ties like Spurs vs Man Utd, and West Ham vs Liverpool were common place. However, my Dad wasn’t really into football (in fact I took him to his first match in about 40 years Grays Athletic vs West Ham XI in 2009), so I kind of missed out on the “Nick Hornby sitting on your Dad’s shoulders at Highbury” experience, not that I’m complaining as he took me out shooting air-rifles and stuff instead.
No, instead my first match was with a couple of school friends, and was a Conference relegation battle between Dagenham & Redbridge and Macclesfield Town in about 1995/6. I think Dagenham won yet still got relegated. We were about 15 and to be honest it was probably the first time any of us had been to a match without a grown up. We sat in the stand rather than go on the terrace. We didn’t know any better.
Anyway, the game seemed amazing. I mean three goals amazing. THREE GOALS. I imagined every game would be like that if you went to see it. However, I subsequently went to almost all the home matches the following season (on the terrace, I was always a fast learner), and there weren’t that many goals then (although we went to Wembley in the FA Umbro Trophy).
The majority of matches I’ve been to have been non-league or very low league matches, and I think I’m always trying to recapture the magic of that first match.