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#LetFansIn

Here at A Groundhoppers Guide to the Pyramid, our feed is dominated by Non-League football, and last season I attended 24 games between Step one and eight, and just three at a higher level.

Our whole team of reporters absolutely love Non-League football, it is the backbone of English football, but its future is hanging on a knife edge.

Covid 19 has affected people across the globe, and every single sport was halted during the height of the pandemic, but slowly we have seen the restart of sport, along with other amenities within society. However it seems as if Non-League football has been left behind and forgotten about.

Over the weekend, Brits were seen flocking to beaches and pub gardens in their droves, all the while friendlies between clubs in Steps 1-8 were not allowed to entertain any fans, even socially distanced. You can probably already see the issues that have arisen from this decision by the government, but unless you regularly attend Non-League games, you probably aren’t aware of how safe it really is compared to other things that are being allowed.

Apparently a Pub is safer than this!

In this article I will document the issues facing Non-League clubs when fans aren’t allowed to attend, and then go on to explain what should be done.

Once the Premier League returned in June, the majority of Football fans took a sigh of relief as it seemed as if football would be okay. The Premier League, and it’s almost infinite wealth will be fine, the clubs make a huge amount of money from TV deals, sponsorship deals, merchandise and tournament prize money.

Exact numbers on this subject are hard to find, but I would imagine that the money generated from season tickets and match day tickets make up such a small percentage of the clubs revenue. Of course having this disappear is a loss, but they certainly don’t rely on this money to stay afloat.

TalkSport published an article in 2018 detailing the money earned by Premier League clubs from TV rights alone, and with West Brom earning the least at over £94 million….

Read the full article here to get to grips with the money Premier League clubs get from TV rights alone: https://talksport.com/football/376346/how-much-money-each-premier-league-club-earned-tv-and-their-final-position-180518283150/

As you can imagine this is not the case at all with Non-League clubs, their revenue comes mainly from gate receipts, local sponsorship deals and hiring out their clubhouses for functions and events.

All of these revenue streams have completely dried up due to Covid 19, and this has left Non-League clubs on their knees, and it cannot be allowed to go on much longer. Last month, both EFL and National League clubs had to make a huge decision as to whether they would compete in the play offs, as hosting these games would mean the clubs would make a loss without gate receipts.

This just shows how dire the effects of Covid 19 has been England’s smaller clubs, and now we are trying to get back to a ‘new normal’, these clubs need to be supported and allowed to continue. We have already lost Droylesden FC due to the effects of Covid 19, and if clubs cannot start to make money soon, then more will follow.

So what needs to be done?

Quite simply, fans need to be allowed back, across all levels of the pyramid.

The fact is that the attendances at most Non-League football games would not pose a problem in terms of social distancing. 50-100 people standing in a field is no more risky than people sitting in pubs, or thousands sitting on the same beach, so this really should just be able to go ahead. Of course there should be provisions put in place to make sure the rules are adhered to, but this mostly just relies on people’s common sense.

Badshot Lea, this time last year, social distancing already in place!

I play local club cricket, and our clubhouse bar is open and people are allowed to sit and watch, there really is no difference between this and most of Non-League football.

As you move further up the pyramid, there is more of an issue to be considered. The National League, including North and South, will definitely need extra provisions before fans can return, but these need to be planned and put in place ASAP so as many fans can be allowed back in as possible.

My suggestion would be that stands need to have allocated seats so that social distancing can be maintained, and only a certain amount of tickets are allowed to be sold so that the number of people in attendance can be managed in line with social distancing.

I feel that this would allow a healthy amount of people into grounds, as I said before it relies on people applying their common sense and not getting too close, but we just need to get fans in, otherwise the season will not be able to start properly as teams will not be able to carry on much longer.

There has been a fantastic Twitter campaign, with lots of clubs getting involved, especially Dorking Wanderers and the @Love_non_league Twitter page, who are all pushing to #LetFansIn. If this doesn’t show the importance of fans to proper English football then I don’t know what will.

If you are a fan of the Premier League or Championship then you may not understand the importance of Non-League football to the beautiful game in England, but it is the backbone of our national game.

So if you are a fan of football, I implore you to get onto Twitter, and show your support to #LetFansIn, Non-League needs you.

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