On Saturday 3rd September there will be more than half-a-million fans without a game to watch because of internationals. “Non-League Day” urges fans to explore their local clubs, providing a much needed financial boost to grassroots football. James Doe and Mike Bayly, the men behind Non-League Day, have seen a simple idea snowball into one of, if not the, biggest non-league football event of the year within just 12 months.
- This article first appeared in the Football Supporters’ Federation’s official magazine The Football Supporter (tfs) 027. Subscribe to tfs here...
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The premise is simple; last year QPR fan James Doe decided to create a new day in the football calendar. The plan was to ask fans of Premier League and Championship clubs to instead visit their local non-league side for one weekend a season.
Choosing an international weekend so as not to clash with fixtures in the top two divisions, the day was a runaway success, with coverage from the BBC, the Guardian and the Football Supporters’ Federation bolstering crowds at non-league clubs across the country.
Now, the day is making a return, bigger and better than ever. MacMillan Cancer Support have come on board as the official partner charity, ex-England international Chris Waddle has been recruited as an official ambassador, and a number of other special events are planned on the day.
But why choose to take part in Non-League Day? Across the country, many smaller teams walk a financial tightrope between surviving and falling into liquidation. Money is always needed, but there's rarely enough to go round. Barely a month seems to go by without a club resigning their status or being wound up, and the latest high profile collapse of Rushden & Diamonds merely heads a list that is growing at an alarming rate.
This is a chance to support these teams for one weekend a year, to see what the hard working people at the clubs are doing to keep the fabric of English football alive. And Bayly is adamant fans who go along will enjoy the day.
“The atmosphere is always friendly, the football on show can be of a very good standard, and you can get your admission, a few drinks and something to eat for under £20. Many clubs let kids in for free and offer heavily discounted tickets for senior citizens.
“Non-League Day is as much about supporting the local community as it is about watching football, so we would urge anyone without a game that weekend to check out their local club and see what it has to offer - we think you will be pleasantly surprised.”
The new website www.nonleagueday.co.uk will contain information on all the day’s fixtures as well as maps, a club guide section, online shop and articles from football writers. Anyone wishing to help out in any way can email James (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mike (email@example.com).
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