Football and the North East. The two go hand-in-hand don’t they? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve only been in Newcastle for a few months as a first year or have zero interest in the game, it’s impossible to miss the passion that the region has for football.
I mean Newcastle sell out 50,000 tickets each week in the Championship. And even Sunderland with their tragic home form have the 7th highest average attendance in the Premier League.
With the popularity of the Mackems and Geordies, you’d be forgiven for mistaking that football in the region is just about those two teams. But the thirst for football here is prominent in the non-league scene too. It’s obvious that local identity and rivalry drives the passion for the supporters of the North East’s.
People from Whitley Bay, Heaton and North and South Shields – just to name a few – turn out in huge numbers in to support their respective teams. The rivalry between North and South Shields is something to behold as a crowd of over 2600 watched their game in November. Not bad for two sides in the 9th tier!
Non-league teams give back the sense of community that is often diluted at the higher levels of the game. As a Blackburn Rovers fan, I have become particularly disenchanted over the last few years (don’t get me started…) however, after getting involved with my local team Lancaster City, my interest in the game has not just been rekindled but has taken on a new lease of life. Football and its inherent social links makes the community feel so important.
"But we’re not just a bunch of football nerds protesting against modern football"
And this is why I decided to start up the Non-League Football Society this year. Our committee members, Scott and Alicia, and myself took a few of our friends along to an FA Cup game at Whitley Bay last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. This got us thinking. Surely other students wanted to go too? I mean, with proper food, exciting football, good pints, cheap entry and doing all that with your mates whilst making new ones, what more would a student want?!
And we have been rewarded with incredible success so far. We have been recognised by NUSU as being runners-up in the Society of the Month for November! This is a great achievement after only being officially ratified in October. We have also established a great core of members and average 10-15 people coming each week, often adding a significant percentage onto the gate. We’ve been to teams such as Whitely Bay, North and South Shields, our local Heaton Stannington and the famous Blyth Spartans – and have plenty more on our radar!
But we’re not just a bunch of football nerds protesting against modern football. We have made connections when visiting teams and our members have written articles for the match programme at Whitley Bay, Newcastle Benfield, Blyth Spartans and Heaton Stannington. In addition, radio stations KoastRadio and Blyth Live have given members an opportunity to gain real, practical work experience by reporting live on air! This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone in the Society to really get involved.
The North East is undoubtedly the best region for non-league football in England at the minute. In the national FA Vase competition (a kind of non-league FA Cup), a North East side has brought back the Vase 7 times in the last 8 years. Our ultimate aim is to go to Wembley with one of our local teams. We’ll definitely make that happen! With huge crowds and a very high standard – all at a very cheap price – there is much more than meets the eye. So why not get involved!