This weekend heralded “Non-League Day 2016,” a celebration of all that is great with English football.
Today marks the day of a new era. But not one to do with the game at grassroots. England take on Slovakia at 5PM, the first game of Sam Allardyce’s reign. Interest in this game is through the roof, with many seeing “Big Sam” as a throwback to a golden age, a traditional English manager who employs English tactics and values. He has even called up Michail Antonio, once of Tooting and Mitcham. However, a much more significant event this weekend was that of “Non League Day”.
The day coincides with an international break and is designed to promote Non-League football, as well as the thousands who help out with the running of their local clubs. Without this day, many of the clubs who represent their communities, would not be able to function. Many professional teams and major news outlets support the day aswell as players, lending major firepower behind the growing occasion.
So what are the positives about such a day? As mentioned above, the day is planned on an international day. The glitz of the English Premier League (EPL) is put to bed, allowing fans to attend local games. Another great aspect of the event is that the whole Non-League community comes together as one. Many clubs unite in order to advertise the day, which shows a spirit of togetherness. That spirit is something which is lacking in the EPL. The only example that springs to mind is that of Liverpool and Everton, coming together to remember the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
So what else can be done? Grassroots football needs mainstream media exposure. Clubs still need funding, as many are run by purely volunteers. Technology has improved, the aim for many clubs is to have a 3G pitch installed, meaning games can be played in inclement weather conditions and the money can keep coming in. Professional clubs need to do more, celebrate the day and advertise it as best they can. Their reach is far and wide and a simply social media post would have such a massive effect.
Some of the greats to have pulled on a Three Lions jersey have Non-League football to thank for their impressive careers. Players such as Chris Waddle, Ian Wright, Jamie Vardy, and new boy Michail Antonio were all spotted plying their trade in the grassroots game. As the Non-League Day movement gathers pace, who knows what unknown gem could be discovered?