Interest in non-league football rose last year, as it was the only way that many football fans in the UK could see the beautiful game in person, there’s hope that this trend can continue after the pandemic.
Prior to the second lockdown in the UK, arrangements between the FA (football association) and the Government meant that up to 600 fans were allowed to attend games at the step 3 of the non-league system, the 7th tier of English football.
After fans were starved of live football for months, many were left frustrated with not being allowed to attend games in person, resulting in numerous fans turning up to watch their local non-league clubs to get their fix.
Ashton Kirby, is the Media Officer for semi-professional non-league football club Hartley Wintney F.C., who play in the Southern League Premier Division South.
He noticed more people attending their games, “the numbers were definitely higher on weekends than normal, the ground was touching legal corona capacity at times,” he said.
He added that he felt “lucky and very fortunate to see live football when many couldn’t. But I guess everyone had the opportunity to support their local football club, it’s a great way of getting involved in the community.”
Mr Kirby explained how, in the current times we live in he feels “people need community and support and they get that at Hartley Wintney.”
He hopes that in the future people “will be more engaged in non-league football” but remains unsure if they’ll continue to participate in it.
James Preston, an avid Blackburn Rovers fan, turned to watching Hartley Wintney F.C. to get his football fix.
Seeing live football in person “is possibly my favourite thing, there’s nothing better particularly when stressed than just getting engrossed in a live game of football with mates,” he said.
“It’s great, you can have a beer by the pitch side, (which is banned in league football in England) and there’s also a really nice sense of community when you go regularly, which you don’t get as much with league football,” he said.
Having now experienced non-league football, James is committed to watching more in the future.
“Yes definitely I’ll continue watching” he said before adding “I overheard a bunch of young lads talking about how they were only going to the games since they couldn’t go to watch their Premier League teams. I just hope some fans stick around after this is all over.”