What Impact will coronavirus have on our local non-league football clubs?
COVID 19: The Impact On Our Local Non-League Football Clubs
It feels like an eternity ago now. The days when football was plastered all over our television screens, stadiums were packed with loyal fans and social media pages debated through the night over the latest sporting news and gossip. Sport has had to take a back seat, and understandably so, in order to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone. Nevertheless, this pandemic will have an impact on football as we know it for years to come. The impact will almost certainly be negative for the majority of clubs. This is certainly the case for Non-League clubs that survive on limited funding, the goodwill of kind volunteers, and the fan base that they generate from their local community. The question we must ask ourselves is when football resumes, will it resume for everyone? or will some teams be lost; simply consigned to the history books as casualties of the worst health pandemic of our generation.
Since moving to Leeds, something I realised quickly is that the locals love their football. Leeds United, the sleeping giants, have an incredible fan base of passionate supporters that epitomise what it means to be a ‘one club city’. That is true, until you explore Leeds. When you look past Elland Road, you begin to realise that Leeds and its surrounding areas, is well-stocked with excellent local football clubs. These football clubs are fundamental to their communities, working in partnership to support each other in providing a great service.
As a local resident of an area just outside Guiseley, I have adopted The Lions as my local team. Their ground, Nethermoor, is a charming and inviting venue for home fans, and I can imagine a daunting place to visit for opposition teams and players. Guiseley AFC currently ply their trade in the Vanarama National League North, and were having a respectable season before the halt, sitting just outside the play-off positions. The hard work that goes into running a lower league football club is astonishing, backed up by the union of helpful volunteers. So what happens next for Guiseley AFC and the other Non-League clubs after this crisis? Let’s look at who will be affected and how we can support our local teams to fight another day.
The fans are the life source of any football club. Without paying punters, football clubs sink, a simple fact of football being a business. As a football fan myself, I can express how difficult these past few months have been. The absence of ecstatic elation when your team scores a goal has created a vast void which as yet I cannot seem to fill. However for some people, football is more than that. The season ticket holder who has attended every game at Nethermoor for the last 15 years, how are they coping? The fan who gives up hours of their time each weekend to help sell hot drinks and programmes on a matchday, how are they coping? The short answer is they aren’t. They miss football, just as we all do, but the fans of local Non-League clubs also have to contend with the stark reality that their football club is at risk.
The Players. Stars of the show that are heroes one week and villains the next. Premier league players are supporting the NHS through their PlayersTogether fund, an excellent cause for the health service heroes of every week. When you think of footballers you think of highly paid superstars, driving their sports cars and appearing on your social media page. Who thinks of the Non-League centre forward, who has to work another job to supplement his football earnings? Who thinks of the Non-League goalkeeper who has had to be furloughed by the club to ensure they all get through this difficult time. Players at this level love football just as much as the Premier League superstars, they have dreams of scoring the winning goal in a cup final and representing their country at a major tournament. They work incredibly hard to support their families, whilst maintaining a career in football. Some are young players, who are gaining experience for an exciting career. Some are older players, who now share their experience with the players of tomorrow. These are the players that need our help. So send them message of support, re-assure them that you will be there to watch their performances when we resume, and most importantly support the club that they represent to ensure that their livelihood is protected.
Every club has a different structure, usually dictated by their wealth. Non-League clubs will obviously have differing staffing structures to the ‘Top Division Titans’. Nevertheless, every club has paid staff on their accounts. Staff that rely on the financial security of football. In these uncertain times, many have had to be furloughed. A double whammy of anguish for these passionate football fans who also earn their living in a sector they love. When an absence of football means no money coming in for the club, the outlook for its staff can seem bleak. In order to protect the kit man, the physio, the groundskeeper, the chairman and everyone else in between, we must respond to the call. If we want to witness our local team in the future, achieving promotion or going on an incredible cup run, then we have to take proactive action.
So, when we resume, we all have a duty. We must support our local teams. We must support those fans, players and volunteers for whom their local team is their life. So when it is safe to do so, let’s offer our hand. Buy a ticket; take the family; stay for a drink afterwards and buy a programme. Offer to help at the next matchday collecting litter; or wash the kit; or offer to sell the raffle tickets. Donate an item to their charity action or post on social media about their upcoming fundraiser. Most importantly, stick together in your local community and support your local team. Guiseley AFC, see you soon at Nethermoor, and let me know how I can help.
We hope you enjoyed our article ‘COVID 19: The Impact On Our Local Non-League Football Clubs.’ How do you see COVID19 impacting non-league football clubs both short and long term? Let us know!
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