7th tier club encourages fans to head to their matches to experience ‘proper football’

7th tier club Mickleover encourages fans of Premier League and EFL clubs to head to their matches to experience ‘proper football’.

As the World Cup came to an end, and with festive football around the corner, Mickleover club treasurer Neil Hadfield gives reasons as to why life in the stands of non league stadiums is worth experiencing especially if they haven’t before.

His side currently sit 5th in the Southern League Premier Central division, picking 34 points from 21 games played and are nine points behind league leaders Tamworth who have played a game more.

Neil Hadfield had previously been a Derby County season ticket holder for 20 years, but admits these days that non league football a much more interactive football experience.

He said, as reported by Derbyshire Times: “It’s closer to home, easier to get to the ground, and after the game, you can stand in the bar and talk to the players and the manager. I couldn’t do that at Derby County. You can have a chat, it’s a much better atmosphere inside the ground, and you feel like you are part of the club. You can turn around to the right-back and say ‘you had a nightmare today’, or ‘what a cracking goal’, and they will talk to you back. It’s much more interactive.

“We get a lot of people who come along to one of our games and then come again. We have people who are surprised by the level of football, John McGrath [the Mickleover manager] has them playing at a very good level of football. It’s proper football, and for people of my age, it’s football as you remember it, where you can stand up and watch everything going on.

“A lot of people are Mickleover and Derby fans, but Derby fans first, and we accept that. But if you come along, sample the atmosphere – we can’t always guarantee you a seat – but come along, watch the game. I stand with a few people behind the goal and we have West Bromwich Albion fans, Derby fans, Leeds United fans, and we all mingle together and watch the other teams’ scores as they go in, and you go through all the footballing emotions together. It’s great fun, it’s a fun place to be.”

Like Mickleover, most non league clubs at their level have good catering, whether it’s a bar or a food van, with many posts of food going viral via Footy Scran, tempting in extra fans on matchdays.

Not just that, but you’re much closer to the action, to the point you can hear what they’re saying in the dugouts, tickets are cheaper, which often comes in handy for those struggling to afford going to matches in professional football as prices for those matches rise.

Mickleover have set their adult tickets at £12, with it cheaper for concessions and children, and under 14s get to go in for free. So it’s definitely north checking your nearest non league side out at some point.

Barkingside chairman Jimmy Flanaghan says: “One of the bonus points for a lot of non league clubs coming out of the pandemic restrictions was the boost they all enjoyed in bigger attendances whilst people couldn’t go to Premier and Football League games.

“Even better was quite a few of them managed to hang on to the extra fan; however I can’t help wondering following recent stories and reports of attitudes in recent months that at what cost, as it seems the part of the non league game we all love is quickly disappearing.

“Since the start of the current season it has been a regular occurrence in the Non League Paper of reports of violence and general bad behaviour at the top levels of non league games as what were rival groups of football league fans seem to have latched onto their new adopted non league club and then causing disruption at games, which in most cases seems to be drink related.

“Obviously at some grounds, where there is a more relaxed approach to supporters drinking – which has always been one of the attractions having a friendly pint in the ground and being being left alone – now seems in some cases to be leading to unruly behaviour.

“There also seems to be a win at all costs Football League sort of attitude amongst some clubs and players, who basically seem to think they are bigger and better than they actually are. So I think a reality check is required again at some of these clubs.

“We all love to win and all want to be successful, but I’ve got to tell you a game between two middle of the table sides that have no chance of going up or getting relegated, whatever decision goes against you it’s not as important as some of you seem to think it is.

“Football really isn’t more important than life or death, so it certainly doesn’t give anyone the right to hurl abuse at the match officials with as much venom as some people use. Yes they may not be the best, but don’t forget that neither are the coaches or players, that’s why invariably they end up at the level they are playing at.

“It’s great that these clubs have managed to get more people through the door, that’s what we all aim and wish for, but not at any cost; and certainly not if it makes genuine non league fans and committee members start to question if it still is all for the love of the game.”

It’s worth keeping in mind Non League Day, an annual event which celebrates semi-professional and grassroots football in the UK. The next one will be on the 25th of March 2023.

The idea was suggested in 2010 by James Doe and is a non-profit and volunteer-run initiative set to coincide with a break in fixtures within the football calendar when the Premier League, Championship, League One and even some League Two sides do not have games.

This is so that international fixtures can be played and top level players will be on international duty and since it’s formation, has received widespread backing from the top flight and from EFL clubs as well as MPs, media organisations, charities and from non league clubs themselves.

The Football Association also gives its backing to the campaign as clubs often look to this day for a boost in attendance figures and offer reduced admittance prices to fans of other clubs for games played on NonLeague Day.

Clubs can also offer incentives for fans to take advantage of – so keep your eyes peeled via their website, Twitter, and other socials.

Original article published 30.12.2022 on the fanbanter.co.uk website.

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