THE NEW SEASON! By Matt Badcock
THERE was a certain relief walking out of NLP Towers at 9:30pm last Saturday night.
Another summer had been negotiated, August is here and competitive football is finally back.
The off-season is a busy one for us as we aim to keep producing engaging articles people will enjoy reading and, I hope, we have once again managed to do that.
While there might not be a full programme of matches for a few weeks, there’s always something going on in Non-League football once the regular season finishes at the end of April.
The play-offs get into full swing immediately, then there’s all the finals to cover, restructuring, league constitutions, league constitutions part two, transfers, fixtures, FA Cup, Trophy and Vase draws and, eventually, pre-season matches.
But there’s nothing quite like that first Saturday of the new campaign. Where everyone turns up, level on points, full of hope and ambition, with fans wondering, ‘Could this be our year?’
New players have been signed, stands have had a lick of paint and there’s grass in all the goalmouths – although this year much of it will be parched! I imagine there will be some expensive water bills dropping on the doormats of clubs in the near future as groundsmen battle against the heat.
Of course, we’ve had the World Cup to tick us over too and with England going deep into the competition, the excitement and feel-good factor has been palpable. Non-League football can really benefit from the national side having a good competition too.
And there was plenty to be proud of for this level of the game with Jordan Pickford’s loan spells at Darlington and Alfreton taking up many column inches, along with Nick Pope’s Bury Town beginning and the well-told tale of Jamie Vardy. Who knows where the players kicking off over the coming weeks will end up in a few years’ time.
That’s one of the exciting parts of this time of year. It’s all ahead of us now. The surprises, the shocks, the Cup runs – over the coming nine months stories and memories will unfold for everyone. We’ll enjoy covering every kick. Good luck!
Could we see the use of Sin Bins throughout the Non-League Pyramid in the future?
Last season the FA trialled the punishment across 31 leagues at various levels and this year that will be expanded with the plan for every Step 7 and below league to use them from 2019-20.
The FA chose to use sin bins solely for dissent. Did you know that one in four yellow cards is given for that offence? And last season’s Pilot showed a significant reduction of 38 per cent.
It seems to be tackling the problem.
The hope is sin bins will change behaviour because it will have an immediate impact. Backchat will see a player spend 10 minutes on the sidelines (eight minutes for games of 80 minutes or less) and will harm the team straightaway, rather than receive a booking and carry on.
The FA’s Head of Judicial Services, Mark Ives, answered questions on the system as part of our monthly NLP column with the governing body.
He explained how the FA are governed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) when it comes to laws of the game. At the moment, they are only allowed to introduce it at the grass-roots level.
But should that change, I wonder if we’ll see it higher up the ladder. If it works, which it seems to, that can only be a good thing.