Will non-league football survive the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic?

Ben Harris discusses the fate of Non-League football in the midst of the pandemic.

Ben Harris
14th December 2020
Image: Wikimedia Commons
It is certainly true to say that non-league football has felt the brunt of the consequences, following the COVID-19 pandemic. As the second bout of local lockdowns came into place, we saw a number of local FAs having to close their doors to the return of non-league football, not least the Northumberland FA, and all non-league football below the National League.

Being involved in one of our non-league clubs up here in Newcastle in Newcastle Benfield, I got to see firsthand the financial pressure that was being put on clubs in our league and clubs around the same level. For the case of Benfield, good financial management and constant wariness of the possibility of not being able to play games at some point in the season due to COVID allowed the club to not fall too foul of the financial strains, however certain clubs who have spent a lot on their playing staff have later felt the real financial problem from the pandemic.

There are definitely ways to combat this, and to make sure that the club can survive the winter period, where some clubs would have busy periods with games, that would help to improve club revenue. Benfield for instance have opened their ‘Benfield Snack Attack’ three days a week, offering takeaway food between 9am and 1pm to all local residents.

Savvy initiatives like offering half season tickets and Christmas merchandise ensure that fans are pledging some sort of financial commitment to the club, that can ensure basic upkeep of the stadium, pitch and facilities to get through this difficult period. At Benfield, free giveaways for one or two half season tickets have ensured that fans continue to commit to the club, as the busy period post lockdown poses a serious opportunity for clubs to regain financial stability.

Some clubs have had fantastic success in the FA competitions, most notably Marine and Havant and Waterlooville. The income of reaching the 2nd or even 3rd round proper will sort a club out financially for potentially a number of seasons, however with such a vast amount of clubs in the pyramid, not every club can have this boost. Clubs have to not rely on competitions like these at the best of times, but when the monetary outlay is reduced further by a pandemic, a good cup run can help club officials breathe a lot more easily.

The final point is simply the fans themselves. The clubs need the fans to commit to supporting their local football clubs, that ultimately support the football period at all levels. Regardless of how many fans are allowed in the Premier League grounds, fans need to make time to pledge just a couple of pounds to going to watch some really great quality football in the lower leagues, ensuring that the amazing football pyramid that exists in this country is retained.  

Featured Image: Twitter @BBCSport

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