Football is a simple game, but since the introduction of the Premier League, it has become more complicated.
Don’t get me wrong. I am an avid Spurs fan and I love them with all my heart. But over the years, I have found that following the Premier League and all of it’s razzmatazz has slowly pushed me away and numbed my senses. Football is no longer a game for the masses, enjoyed on a Saturday at 3PM and talked about for the rest of the week. It has become a business, a global conglomerate where money is put before the mere mortals, like myself, who would follow their team around the country.
Save for the Non-league side of the game. I recently lived in Whyteleafe, home to the aptly named Whyteleafe Football Club. Competing in the Ryman South, they averaged gates of around 200, pittance compared to the professional teams. I had the opportunity to watch them several times and immediately caught the bug. I felt part of a community. It was obvious, right from the beginning, that the supporters who had turned up to watch the game were as passionate as any Premier League fan. Even down to the lady in the tea hut, to the old boy announcing the teams on the loudspeaker, they all formed this community, each as important as each other. I felt an affinity towards them even though my loyalty lay elsewhere.
It’s hard to go to a “professional” game and feel like you are part of this community. Everyone involved in one of these clubs feels worlds apart from the man in the street. Just see what the reaction is when a big time player is seen performing a normal action like buying milk or travelling on a train. People can’t believe it. That is the size of the void between us and players at big clubs. Not so at the Non-Leagues. It takes a lot of hard work to maintain a Non-league club, even so over the winter months. Most staff members are volunteer and money is the last thing on their minds. They continue to volunteer their time as they belong to this community.
Non-League football may not have the glitz and glamour of other leagues, but the attraction to it can be stronger and more important than to the higher echelon of the Footballing pyramid.