Not travelling to Cambridge to watch the Chairboys in action? Andy Worboys suggests visiting a local side to help celebrate Non-League Day.
One of the features of the modern-day football calendar is the “international weekend break”. Brought in to help countries schedule training sessions prior to international games, it means a weekend without Premier League or Championship football. So around one million regular football supporters will have a completely spare weekend. Many will find alternatives but some will still need their “football fix”.
One such person is QPR fan James Doe, who is also a keen supporter of local football. In 2010 he came up with the concept of “Non-League Day” to coincide with the international break weekend. The idea was to encourage fans of the big clubs to take a look at what’s happening in grassroots football in the own local area.
Non-league football would never claim to emulate the glamour and sight of multi-million pound players doing battle in packed stadia – but it does offer something rather different. For a fraction of the cost, you can witness the game played in a different way, with players wanting mostly to play for the love of the game. From small beginnings, Non-League Day has become a very important day in the season for semi-professional and amateur clubs. Many offer special deals on the day, such as reduced admission prices and special events for local charities. A true community ideal!
Each level of non-league football below the Football League is divided into “steps”.
Step One is the National League (e.g. Maidenhead United and Woking). Step Two is the National League North (e.g. Brackley Town and Oxford City) and also National League South (e.g. Hemel Hempstead Town and Wealdstone). Steps Three and Four represent the divisions of the Southern and Isthmian Leagues in our area, while Step Five is the Premier Divisions of the Hellenic League and Spartan South Midlands League. Promotion or relegation is to the next step up or down.
For anything from £5 to £15 (depending on the level) you can watch a game of football, wander around the ground, get a beer at half-time and usually a cup of tea for under £1. Programmes seldom cost more than £2. You will also bump into some amazing people (and dogs – please have a glance @nonleaguedogs on Twitter) who encapsulate the true meaning of grassroots football.
Mostly, these people are unpaid volunteers who, week after week, devote their lives to ensuring both the past and future history of these non-league clubs is protected for future generations. No need for highly-paid chief executives here – it’s all done for the love of the game.
Next Saturday (October 7th) sees this year’s Non-League Day taking place. Many Blues fans will travel to Cambridge United but for those who don’t, can I please recommend you try a local game? This will also show your support for the players and officials who keep our great game going at local and grassroots level.
Here are a selection of games taking place on October 7th within striking distance of High Wycombe including Satnav codes (all 3pm kick-offs):
Maidenhead United v Aldershot Town (SL6 1SF)
NATIONAL LEAGUE SOUTH:
Hemel Hempstead Town v Weston-super-Mare (HP2 4HW)
Oxford City v Poole Town (OX3 0NQ)
Wealdstone v Whitehawk (HA4 6JQ)
SOUTHERN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION:
Chesham United v Royston Town (HP5 1NE)
Slough Town v Biggleswade Town (SL2 5AY)
FA TROPHY PRELIMINARY ROUND:
Aylesbury FC v Molesey (HP19 9WZ)
Marlow v Aveley (SL7 3EE)
N.B.: Holmer Green were due to host Sun Sports FC of Watford on October 7th in the Spartan South Midlands League but sadly Sun Sports have had to resign from the league due to the loss of their ground.