These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Monday, December 24, 2012

NON LEAGUE MANIFESTO


Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Burnham on Boxing Day 2012. We won 2-0 in front of 312 people.

As I sat in the rain next to strangers, one of whom continually commented on Man United’s score, all I could think was that I’d much rather be watching football elsewhere. With a free ticket from the local vicar I don’t want to sound an ungrateful git and I’m well aware of Brighton’s fantastic achievements and their brilliant community programmes. But top level football doesn’t do it for me.
In the same week that the Football Supporters Federation received support from over 15 league clubs for their safe standing campaign, the noisy North Stand supporters were given letters telling them to sit down or face a year ban. It was £4.50 for a burger if you could handle the queues and even longer ones in the rain for the train and bus home.
Sure the football was a lot better, the 26,000 crowd a lot noisy and the stadium a hell of a lot swanker than what I’m used to, but really give me non league football any day.
But non league clubs and the blazers that run the leagues need a bit more imagination to try and jimmy those that would rather sit passive in front of their Sky TV hyped football screen to their grounds. 
So here’s my ten point manifesto for breathing life back into lower league football.
1. Firstly, with climate change kicking in and all the wild, unpredictable weather it brings, the FA need to roll out a funding programme for 3G pitches. The pitch is a clubs greatest asset and it needs to be used as much as possible, not just once or twice a week. This will also help avoid the crippling postponements we are seeing on a far more frequent bases.
2. Play as many games on a Tuesday earlier in the season.
3. Free entry for under 16’s.
4. Encourage all clubs and make it mandatory for leagues to embrace twitter. It’s such an easy way to get information out to hundreds of people.
5. Unless someone can persuade me otherwise scrap the League Cup and Berks and Bucks Cup. No one likes them, no one cares.
6. Cut as much of the secretarial duties as possible rather than drowning volunteers in paperwork.
7. Regionalize on a much greater level and introduce a third Conference feeder league.
Introduce two automatic promotions places for all levels (as a Slough fan I would say that!) as well keeping the play offs.
8. When teams finish in a relegation place then bloody well relegate them rather than give them a reprieve. Surely it’s better to promote those who have been successful than save a team that hasn’t.
9. Sort out the FA Trophy so it’s as respected as the FA Vase. At the moment top Conference clubs treat it with the same disdain that Premiership clubs do the FA Cup. And while we are on the FA Cup cut the money for the clubs that win in the latter rounds and give it to clubs in the qualifying rounds. Do the winners really need £1.8 million? How much more use would that cash be for clubs competing in the first few rounds?
10. And finally, chop off the head of any chairman who promises football league in so many seasons and point them to the financial car crash that is the Conference littered with clubs whose ex-chairman have uttered those stupid words.
Oh and make sure every club embraces and shouts from the rooftops about Non League Day. It’s such a brilliant, simple idea that raises the profile of non league football and gets those all important punters through the turnstiles.

* For more ideas read The Ball Is Round excellent ‘Blueprintfor Non League Football’ 

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