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.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A NON LEAGUE REVOLUTION

To be printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Truro City Saturday 14th March 2015. 

Maybe it was just the spring sunshine going to my head, but standing on the packed Dripping Pan terraces with Kingstonian fans in full voice, I couldn't help thinking that non league football was once again finding its feet; and the relentless crap that league supporters have to put up with for the privilege of supporting their team, was finally turning enough of them away and back to grassroots football.

Of course its not all roses; Lewes opponents Kingstonian groundshare with AFC Wimbledon and their management have said if Wimbledon get their own ground they will probably have to find a new home because Kingsmeadow is too big for them. Meanwhile FA boss Greg Duke, with his deep understanding of lower league finances, has said that he is looking at cutting FA Trophy and Vase money - the same week that the Premiership announced a 5 billion pound TV deal! Dyke’s wants £2 million per year switched from other parts of the FA budget to pay for 35 new coach educators to work in the grassroots and professional game. It's been approved by the FA board, but amateur blazers have unsurprisingly, yet to be convinced about the merits of such expenditure and the resulting 15 per cent cuts being imposed on every department to raise the cash. Do the winners of the FA Cup really need £1.8 million? Should teams be out of pocket in the early rounds of the Trophy and Vase?

Then there's that old B team chestnut rearing its head again. This time, the threats are for Premiership Under 21 teams to be put into the
Johnstone Paint Trophy. Not the most prestigious of cups, until you get to the final when every player and supporter wants to be at Wembley. Let the B teams in that and it will be the Trojan Horse the Premiership Masters of the Universe want so they can swamp the lower divisions with B-listers.

Of course clubs like Lewes, Dulwich and FC United of Manchester have worked hard to carve out a niche for themselves with the resulting surge in support. A recent trip to watch the Peacehaven & Telscombe v Lewes derby showed the flipside of non league. Peacehaven's rise up the divisions and spending on players they couldn't afford has finally caught up with them. A new chairman off-loaded 3 players which immediately cut the wage bill in half. He then initiated a Stand or Fall campaign to raise £15,000 to pay for the required 75 seats before the end of the season. Or as non league football blogger Ian Townsend pointed out 'Half a day’s pay – or possibly the price of an acceptable birthday cake – for Yaya Touré.' No seats and it will mean relegation. Piddinghoe Avenue still has the feel of a Sussex County League ground and not the Sports Arena it likes to call itself. Whereas you walk into noise when you go through the Lewes turnstiles, at Peacehaven you are strung out like pearls and the £10 entrance fee doesn't sit right. Despite it being a derby that mattered and a big crowd, there was no atmosphere and no noise until Peacehaven scored the winning goals. How do you hope to attract the disillusioned supporter with those facilities?

Of course they do things a bit different in Germany where Bayern Munich fans recently unfurled a banner proclaiming ‘No to the English model’ while their president, said “We do not think the fans are like cows to be milked. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.” So hears hoping the Premiership brand goes the way of Tesco. Too arrogant to see all the problems piling up. To dismissive of the fans protests. I doubt they will ever see the light, so let's encourage more people to jump ship and join the Non League Football Revolution (or Rebelution in our case).



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