Protecting The Grass Roots – Non League Football Needs To Thrive

by Mystical Mike

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

The season has not yet begun, and four football clubs with proud histories have had to either resign from their leagues or have been consigned to the history books altogether.

Not many people will bat an eyelid as another five clubs are added to the ever growing number of clubs who’ve faced financial trouble in recent times (Merthyr Town, Chester FC, FC Halifax Town and Ilkeston to name but a few teams), but to the fans of these clubs these problems matter.

When a town or village loses its sports team (any sport) it loses part of its history and heritage.  Andover FC famously gave the football world Nigel Spackman, who won the league with Liverpool.  He was their local boy made good.   Bicester Town once entertained Championship side Portsmouth in the FA Cup and Rushden & Diamonds were members of the Football League not so long ago.

So why do clubs keep getting into trouble?  Is it because they know they can reform further down the football pyramid and start from scratch (as Windsor FC will be doing in a few weeks in the Combined Counties Premier League), or are they unfortunate, have corrupt owners more intent on lining their pockets than having a successful football side, or do they just fail to budget properly?  Answers on a postcard, please.

What can be done to address this problem, and how do we ensure that no club will suffer the fates of these clubs and ones before them?  Well, until 2008, a site existed which aimed to match up people interested in helping clubs with clubs in crisis.  Indeed, that was the name of the website – – which was set up by Brighton fans, whom famously suffered the loss of their old Goldstone Ground to crooked owners and had to spend years at the less than adequate Withdean Stadium before their new AMEX Stadium was built at Falmer.  The site went offline, due to funding problems and also a few of the potential saviours of clubs turned out to be anything but.   A new site, built around clubs in crisis is apparently on its way soon but too late to save these aforementioned clubs.

Fans always say that money has ruined what Brian Clough famously called ‘the beautiful game’, however is it more an imbalance of money which has ruined the game, with the elite clubs getting richer and clubs in the Conference and below not knowing if they’ll survive until the following week.  Wrexham FC could be the next non-league club in the firing line, with their owners refusing to put any more into the club and news yesterday that the Crusaders Rugby League side were being pulled out of the Super League for the next three years (the ground-share agreement was meant to help Wrexham, with the Crusaders paying Wrexham rent for using their ground).

Fans of the game must unite to protect the future of grass-roots football, and make sure that non-league clubs remain a vital part of their community.  To ad lib the Manic Street Preachers – if you tolerate one club going to the wall, then your club may well be next.

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  • Adam King

    Andover, Bicester Town, Dawlish Town and Rushden & Diamonds being the four teams mentioned.

    Andover might come back (possible merger with nearby New Street to create a ‘super club’ for the town) whilst Bicester could merge with Launton and AFC Rushden & Diamonds might go to the United Counties League next season.

    Dawlish might find it hardest of all to come back – removed from the Toolstation Western and their reserves from the Devon & Exeter League. With severe debts to Carlsberg they might have to go back to park football and sell their ground.

  • Adam King

    Friar Lane & Epworth are ok now by the way – they are in the Leicester Senior League for this season (taking over their reserve sides fixtures).

  • Non League News

    Seems to happen all the time now. We need more people to go out and watch their local teams on a saturday and not just sit watching football on TV. It doesn’t cost as much as you mite think.

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