The Future of Lower-league Football ?
Most non-league clubs are struggling - with modest gates, rising costs and a high average age & ageing fanbase and having to compete with on-tap TV football.
Most teams at the top of the Premier Leagues, whether in England, Spain or France etc. didn't become rich by being successful and thus attracting big crowds - they mostly reached the top through being rich with Arab money, Russian money, American money, Anyone's money, to buy the best players and then built winning teams.
The same is happening in a small way right down through the lower leagues.
In the end, I wonder if we'll see a semi-amateur set up developing for those clubs without external financial backing (sugar daddies etc) - and those which do have money, however sourced, gradually moving into the paid game in higher leagues.
It's already happening through the promotion system anyway. Then many clubs struggle when they reach just one division higher.
Unfortunately the fans don't like to see their club relegated through living within their means so clubs will continue to go bust and have to accept multi-division relegation. Farnborough, Hereford & Salisbury being the latest, following Hinckley, Rushden & Diamonds, Darlington etc. etc.
I personally like the idea of summer football for non-league clubs which has been suggested elsewhere,, perhaps running from March to the end of November.but I have no confidence that the management committees of lower leagues would have the imagination or energy to bring about such a change.
Even if they backed it, the FA would take decades to sanction a change - most of us will be long gone !!!!
Has anybody got any answers, beyond hoping for handouts from premier league TV money ?
Re: The Future of Lower-league Football ?
Summer football has been mooted on a number of occasions. When rugby league, a sport I cover professionally, changed to summer in 1996, I thought it was a brave decision and was sceptical about its success. Despite sitting in snow on more than one occasion at the start of the season, and seen the odd match postponed because of frost, on the whole, I think the sport has survived thanks to the change.
However, football cannot change at lower levels and remain as it is higher up the pyramid. Either we go the whole hog or we don’t because it will not work from an administrative standpoint. For a start the FA Cup begins in August, National League North and South join in late September, National Premier in October and Leagues One and Two in November, before the greedy scumbags (sorry, Championship, Premier League) enter in January. This would made the FA Cup a late-season tournament for some teams, early-season for others and mid-season for the remainder (which would make finding match officials for the early games even harder). Also it would be impossible to run the FA Trophy if the Ryman and Evo-Stik Leagues (Isthmian, Southern and Northern Premier – all nine divisions) were to be summer and the National Leagues - all three divisions - were still winter competitions.
The other big issue and – it effectively is the same argument against midseason breaks – is when would the seasons start and finish. At present, preseason starts at the very beginning of July, friendlies in mid- to late-July and the regular season in early- to mid-August. If the season started in six months later, preseason would be at the start of the new year, friendlies in mid- to late-January and the season kick-off would be early- to mid-February. The season would end in late October with playoffs in November.
Given that, in the past six years, we have had matches snowed off in October, November, December, January, February and March, when is the bad weather likely to hit? Also where would players train in preseason, if it is January. There would be no daylight for sessions and most grass surfaces would be far from ideal to run on, let alone try to kick footballs on. Also, it would not be possible to set up glamorous friendlies if the season for the Premier League, Championship, Leagues 1 and 2 and the three National Leagues were in full swing.
Another issue would be pitch maintenance. Pitches get relaid and new drainage work done in the summer when the grass is growing. This could not be done in the offseason in winter, because there is no grass growth and the soil is not going to recover either.
Re: The Future of Lower-league Football ?
Summer football for me is a no, for those of us who follow the professional game as well it would just be overkill.
Simple things like reducing division sizes would help, the advent of 3G pitches is a big step forward as well.