The chance of a lifetime
To say 2020 has been a strange year would perhaps qualify as one of the biggest understatements of all time. News reports of a pneumonia-type disease spreading in Wuhan in early January barely registered on most people’s radars, yet six months down the line Coronavirus has affected almost all facets of daily life.
Despite what Bob Paisley might have said, football certainly isn’t as important as life and death, yet it does provide entertainment to millions of people across the country.
The vast majority of media coverage during the pandemic has been about the professional game, and more recently about VAR which remains equally as bonkers as it was in the pre-Covid times. For a short time in early July non-league football briefly had a spot of the limelight when the government announced a route back to playing team sports with limited spectator numbers. This news was welcomed by non-league clubs who’s income streams have been decimated due to the suspension and annulment of the 2019/20 season.
It is anticipated that the 2020/21 amateur season will start in September with crowds allowed. Even with a capacity limit of say 25%, most clubs will not be adversely affected by this given the numbers that attend. Most importantly, it will open up their revenue streams with gate receipts, raffles and bar and food sales, risk assessments permitting.
The professional game is expected to restart around the same time, but it is anticipated restrictions on attendees will have much more of an impact with capacities as low as 20% being mooted. The blanket TV coverage is also rumoured to be coming to an end, and as a result, tens of thousands of football fans will be without their beloved game.
These measures present a magnificent opportunity for the amateur game to entice new fans along to get their football fix. Non-League Day has been running for a number of years with the aim of attracting fans to new clubs during the international breaks, and has anecdotally been successful. The Coronavirus restrictions mean that the opportunity is longer term, and will give the clubs the chance to convert fans to the delights of the amateur game. The appeal of entry and a half time pint for less than £10.00 should also make a difference in the potential austere times ahead. If you are reading this and already watch non-league football then please tell a friend. If you haven’t been before, or haven’t been for a while then keep an eye out for fixture details and get yourself along to watch some football played and organised by people with a real passion for the game.