Do Premier Leagaue football fans patronise non league football fans?
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No Premier League/Premiership/Greatest League Ever this weekend means we are at that point in the year that is Christmas to non-league sides. That is what the people behind ‘Non-League Day’ want us to believe anyway.
It is that one day where fans of the bigger sides grace there local non league teams with their presence.
I’m not sure if you can tell but I am not the biggest fan of what has become an annual event.
What is the difference between Manchester United and Stalybridge Celtic?
United play in one of the most commercially pushed leagues in the world. There games are televised in almost every place you can imagine with plenty of people watching. Regardless of Glazer ‘debt’ the club is swimming in money with sponsorship deals that fans are mocking as ridiculous. Asian drinks firms, American finance companies and Mr Potato Chips are just some of the fine names now established with the club.
Under it all however Manchester United is still a football club.
Stalybridge Celtic doesn’t have the worldwide exposure or preposterous sponsorship agreements but like United they are also a football club.
Money, popularity and size are the only differences between these clubs.
So why on ‘Non League Day’ do we expect clubs such as Celtic to welcome fans from other clubs with huge open arms?
If you are a supporter of a non-league side and go every week (plenty do) then how would you feel about some random fans coming down to watch your club? A day out to another club whose players you have no idea about and who you will have forgotten when you sit down to watch Soccer Saturday the week after.
How often do we read about regular match going fans at the bigger sides complain about ‘day trippers’ or the ‘Prawn Sandwich Brigade’? Are fans going to a local non league game for one day any different in reality?
I am currently working on a personal writing project involving Stockport County who are now in the Skrill North Conference (2 divisions below League 2). This is a proud club who have fallen on bad times due to poor senior management on and off the pitch. The County fans I have spoken to this week find Non League Day a patronising affair and are not particularly interested in welcoming fans for a one off experience. They do not need bailing out by United, City and other fans visiting them for the day with a few quid for a pie and a programme.
A fans club is like his house, when you visit the ground you are entering his front room. It’s a personal experience for fans and in the lower leagues this is even more the case. You see the same fans week in and week out, build up relationships through the team and it becomes a shared experience. Unless you are a season ticket holder with others at most major clubs now this is something that you will not properly experience in the Premier League or below.
One of the main reasons that many commentators push the Non League day as being something good is the additional money that clubs receive. Now every penny that clubs at this level can earn is not to be sniffed at but why does this only have to be one day a season?
Rather than paying lip service to the situation why can larger clubs not help subsidise the national game more. I have raised it many times before that Premier League clubs earning power doesn’t benefit the game as a whole and even just 10% of prize monies or television money could make a massive difference to the local clubs in these areas.
It’s not likely to happen and non-league clubs will still rely on the loyal fans to keep them going. The fans that go each and every week rain and shine, not just because the ‘big’ teams are not playing. It’s always the fans who are expected to stump up the cash, the professional clubs stay largely quiet.
These clubs want fans that will actually support the club, not once a season visitors.
By all means take in a game at your local club this Saturday and I’m extremely hopeful you will continue to support your local side.
Don’t expect the real fans of your local club to accept you with open arms however as they are not charity cases in the way they are portrayed.
They are real clubs with as much heart and soul as any big club who try and ram their latest sponsorship deal down your throats.
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