I would like to call upon all football followers to support Non-League Finals Day at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, May 22 2016 writes Tony Incenzo
I have been an avid follower of Non-League football for more than 40 years. I grew up in North-West London and I used to watch my local teams – Hendon, Barnet and the old Finchley FC – whenever I could as a school kid.
Nowadays, my diet of attending Non-League football mainly consists of groundhopping. But I always try to take in the major Finals at Wembley.
Over the last couple of seasons however, I have been very disappointed with the attendances at those showpiece games:
2014- 18,120 for the FA Trophy Final, Cambridge United v Gosport Borough
2015 – 14,585 for the FA Trophy Final, North Ferriby v Wrexham
2014 – 5,431 for the FA Vase Final, Sholing v West Auckland Town
2015 – 9,674 for the FA Vase Final, North Shields v Glossop North End
Now compare these figures to the record crowds for the respective Finals:
53,262 at 2007 FA Trophy Final, Stevenage Borough v Kidderminster Harriers
36,232 at 2007 FA Vase Final, Truro City v AFC Totton
Yes I know there was special interest in 2007 as it was the first year that the Finals returned to the re-built Wembley Stadium. But even so, there has been an alarming decline in crowds since then.
It must have been getting towards the point where it is no longer viable to stage these Finals at the national stadium – especially the FA Vase. That would be a great shame for the players and supporters of the participating teams.
Therefore I would like to see every club that participates in the overall FA Trophy and Vase competitions attempting to sell 50 tickets each and running a coach to Non-League Finals Day at Wembley.
A total of 276 teams took part in the 2015/16 FA Trophy competition with 572 in the FA Vase. If they all sold 50 tickets each, it would bring 40,000-plus to the Finals Day on top of the supporters of the respective finalists and other neutrals.
I can hear people now saying: “Our club couldn’t sell 50 tickets!”
Well even the smallest of Non-League clubs have 50 people involved – first team and reserve players, committee, supporters and WAGS. The ticket prices are very attractive and you would definitely enjoy a great day out!
Anyway, those are my ideas. Let’s embrace and boost the FA Trophy and Vase Finals.
The alternative is losing their traditional place at the national stadium due to a lack of interest.