Why 2008 will prove memorable for all the right/wrong reasons

by Mystical Mike

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

There are some big issues in the world of Non League Football at the moment; unpaid players wages, not enough people through the gate, taxes, floodlights, respect.

On the surface the game we all love would seem to be in its most precarious position but after a year like 2008, in truth it’s never had a brighter future.

At the very top of the pyramid the FA has a robust grassroots-loving chairman demanding action. At our very heart we’re closer than we’ve ever been to a register for all players, stopping unnecessary “ineligible players”, and like it or not respect on and off the pitch HAS improved.

For me, all those are stand-out reasons to appreciate 2008, but the most important changes this year have shone a light on the negative side of the game and perhaps that is the biggest success.  The world has finally opened its eyes to Non League.

Improved media coverage and the loud demands from the Conference down, mean clubs are having their hands forced. Associations like Supporters Direct are empowering fans to fight their corner or start again. Clubs face a put up or shut up situation and we are nearer than ever to a proper “fit and proper” persons test.

The spotlight is on us and at times this year it’s revealed a fair bit of a stinking underbelly. Only this week, I spoke to a gentleman who told me as recently as a decade ago his club went under mainly because no one knew of their plight. Now, sides feeling the pressure have Facebook groups, fans on the board, demonstrations, a willingness to fight and renegade messageboards at the ready to wheedle out the truth.

That said Non League, like its wealthier Football League cousins, has an extremely long way to go. But what this year has shown us more than any other is the passion still connected to the game and the fight to safeguard our clubs.

Laundry by its very nature is dirty and plenty of it has been aired in 2008. If a resolution is needed for 2009, then it’s perhaps that clubs will soon realise they are so much more open to scrutiny so they have to start behaving properly, or risk their own very public demise.

For the game we love to fully evolve it’s those that have for so long survived on “extra wages”, on property deals, on the acceptable “shady” side of football who now need to realise Non League is a serious business and from 2009 will need to be run as such. I for one can’t wait for it to begin.

Non League Show

Caroline Barker presents The BBC Non League Football Show
Every Monday from 9pm via www.bbc.co.uk/nonleague
Real Football, real fans.
If you’ve got a story email the team nonleague@bbc.co.uk

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