Football’s Unsung Heroes by Andy Gunn.
If you have ever moaned about the admission price at a non-league game then maybe you should think again. The cost of getting into a non-league match is amazingly cheap and season tickets represent unbelievable value with the average United Counties League Premier Division season ticket costing less than the average price of one match at top Premiership clubs. The standard of football is good, you will get a very warm welcome wherever you go and will not see too many histrionics from the players. However, pricing proves to be one of the main dilemmas facing most club committees – raise your prices too high and attendance drops, price too low and financial strife is just around the corner.
Having said all that, nearly every non-league club I have visited is committed to taking football to the whole community. Clubs put vast amounts of resources into nurturing young players, usually for little or no return, good players quickly move up the leagues for minimal or nonexistent fees while Mr Wenger and his cronies have the nerve to winge about ‘Financial Fair Play’. For many years non-league clubs have provided and continue to provide some of this country’s best players. Of the current crop Charlie Austin and Jamie Vardy both started their careers at non-league level as did former England heroes Stuart Pearce, Ian Wright and John Barnes just to name a few. All this comes from clubs who have to do whatever it takes to get a few extra pounds simply to survive, the complete opposite of the country’s top clubs who think nothing of splashing out millions on sub-standard players.
So how do non-league clubs survive? Without a wealthy benefactor, gate receipts and sponsorship undoubtedly make up the majority of a club’s income. The other major factor is the massive and largely unnoticed efforts of volunteers. Up and down the country thousands of ordinary people give up their time to improve their clubs. From coaching players, manning turnstiles and producing matchday programmes to fixing, painting, building, general ground maintenance and tidying up, the list is endless. All of these tasks, done free of charge, relieve a huge financial burden from the clubs. Volunteering is not limited to matchday activities, working parties are commonplace and tend to be extremely enjoyable for those that take part. They also go a long way to cementing the community spirit within a club.
Despite football’s ‘greedy’ tag many clubs are keen to embrace the local community, charities and schools in their area. This season Swan Confidential is proud to support Jaycee May O’Connor, a local girl who has Rett Syndrome. We will publish details of where to find more information on Rett Syndrome and how you can help Jaycee May in every matchday programme.
Thank you to all the unsung heroes that volunteer at clubs, their hard work behind the scenes means that we can all indulge in our passion and watch football in pleasant surroundings. Without volunteers non-league football would not exist and the beautiful game would not be quite as attractive. So next time you visit your local non-league ground, before you moan about the price, programme or state of the ground simply ask yourself ‘how do I volunteer?’.
Updated 20:11 - 29 Nov 2015 by Wayne Harmes