NLP Column w/e 19th August 2017
Barely a week into the new season with each cog of English football in full function and we already have plenty of clubs championing the Non-League cause.
Three cases in particular have caught my eye over recent weeks in striking up an affinity between club and community or club and fanbase.
Leyton Orient, Lewes and Lincoln United have all demonstrated the values that uphold tradition and a decency which allows their fans to think ‘Yes, I am very proud to support this club’.
In Orient’s case, it has very much been a matter of relying on past personnel to build for the future as the club transitions from an ‘asset-stripping’ chairman in Francesco Becchetti to the renewed hope forged by the club’s Anglo-American co-owners.
Former manager Martin Ling was appointed director of football with a mere 10 players available for the first team – all under the age of 21 – while Matt Porter, the club’s trusted CEO under Barry Hearn, returned to take a place on the board.
Yet where Porter was one of the first casualties under Becchetti, being asked to leave less than a month into the Italian’s reign, some staff stayed and endured a torrid three years.
The new owners decided to recognise the virtues of their club staff last Saturday by having a number, which included the kitman, secretary and commercial manager, walk out onto the pitch before their match against Maidstone United to warm applause from the home faithful.
Echoing Orient’s sentiments in ensuring everyone feels valued are Lincoln United who are undertaking renovation works to their Ashby Avenue home to improve the matchday experience of disabled supporters.
By no means a quick fix, the Whites plans will take a full 18 months to complete and the club’s chairman hopes the initiative will kick-start a nationwide drive to address issues facing disabled supporters.
With the outdated trains in service across the country, the problems for many disabled fans can start well before they’ve reached any football stadium.
United’s work will ensure supporters have quick and easy access to toilets and their view for the afternoon or evening, while keeping supporters a part of the atmosphere.
Bostik League South Lewes showed no split parity when announcing their newly-adopted policy of paying their men’s and women’s team equally back in July.
This is an instance of Non-League taking the lead when others are willing to drag their heels.
I do not class myself as a feminist, but you do not have to be to appreciate what is simple decency. Nor do I class myself as a humanitarian but I still donate money to charities and NGOs who do great work and work hard.
All in all, the matters mentioned in this column are instances of staff and supporters not being overlooked by the people who normally have the best seat in the house on a Saturday afternoon.
People in key roles within clubs who appreciate decency in football and have the humility to recognise this and act in a show of gratitude.
The fact The Non-League Football Paper has been published for well over a decade now is down to people being proud of their clubs and buying the paper because they have something to be proud about, regardless of successes or failures on the pitch.
By Adam Ellis