FSF & The Non-League Magazine: fans key to non-league game

Croft Park Blyth Photo Matthew Wilkinson

With the new season underway, many non-league clubs will once more be relying upon volunteer fans to keep their match days running. FSF's National Game Development Officer Andy Walsh tells us more about our partnership with The Non-League Magazine which celebrates those volunteer-supporters...

With the Premier League’s domination of the sports news bulletins and front and back page column inches, it is sometimes easy to forget how much quality football is played in the lower leagues.

It is a fact worthy of some contemplation that many thousands of football fans are at games every Saturday watching teams with little chance of winning even half their matches this season.

The Non-League Magazine celebrates and catalogues the fortunes of the players, supporters and club officials at clubs in those leagues that sit below the top four professional divisions.

This season the FSF has teamed up with the editorial team behind the magazine to bring the goings-on in the lower leagues to a wider audience of football fans.

We hope that supporters will enjoy the read and we would encourage all football fans to take a closer look at non-league football and maybe even seek out a match to attend close to home. We believe that football at the amateur and non-league level is a hugely important part of our football culture and we can all play a role in keeping this level of football alive.

The strength of our professional and semi-professional game is a testimony to the country’s love affair with football.

Sporting endeavour is part of our culture and the opportunity to watch and play football outside of the top four divisions is kept going by the dedication and commitment of an army of football supporters who volunteer at clubs.

The dedication of these supporters and volunteers gives players and coaches teams to play for. Clubs are sustained by a rich and interesting hotchpotch of people from ordinary backgrounds who will throw themselves at the coming season’s challenges for little more than the love of the game; selflessly expending an extraordinary amount of creativity and energy just to keep things ticking along.

Two long-standing League clubs will be thrown into the non-league mix this season as Hartlepool United and Leyton Orient look to improve on recent fortunes.

Supporters of both clubs have been used to watching their team lose more than their fair share of games of late and they will be hoping that the painful shock of relegation brings a change of fortunes. Both clubs will find themselves in some familiar company as they line up against a number of other former League clubs. Supporters and club officials from both clubs will be harbouring hopes of bouncing straight back up but as both teams found out on Saturday it won’t be a cakewalk. An increasing number of clubs in the top two divisions of non-league are better resourced than some clubs higher up with many players now full-time professionals.

The newcomers will be welcomed but they will need to respect the competition if they are to achieve any level of success.

The Non-League Magazine is packed with information across its 118 full colour pages. Orient fans will find a smiling picture of their former owner on page 107!

There is an introduction to the anorak of football shirts who has almost 2,000 shirts in his collection. Features on last season’s non-league success story at Lincoln City and interviews galore with players and managers across the game from Salford City and Macclesfield Town to the likes of Silsden and Phoenix Sports.

Fans at supporter-owned clubs; Hereford and City of Liverpool talk about their experience of being involved in running their clubs. There are book reviews, historical retrospectives, and the obligatory ground-hopper piece.

Give it a go; it won’t cost you a penny and you may find some startling factoid to stun your mates with next time they prattle on about the cost of Neymar’s new house.

Thanks to Matthew Wilkinson for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.