Originally published on SportsByte on September 1st, 2014.
There will be no Premier League fixture for Sunderland this weekend due to England playing on Wednesday and the following Monday, but fans are being encouraged to turn to non-league to get their football fix.
Non-League Day was set up in 2010 in a bid to get football fans around the country to go and watch non-league football during the international break.
Originally a mere social media experiment, Non-League Day has grown year on year and is backed by big names such as Chris Waddle and Martin Tyler.
James Doe, the founder of Non-League Day, is a Queens Park Rangers supporter and follower of Isthmian League club Harrow Borough. The idea for the event came after a trip to watch Harrow Borough in London.
“I heard announcements being made for a fundraiser for new floodlight bulbs,” says James. “Naively I was quite struck by this and thought such things would be routinely covered by the club.
“Given the financial climate at the time, I thought they couldn’t be the only ones and set about thinking of ways I could somehow make a difference.
“I then noticed that an international break was coming up and for the first time not only were the Premier League and Championship teams having the weekend off but England were playing on the Friday night leaving the Saturday open in a way it had never been before.”
This year’s event is fundraising for Prostate Cancer UK, with clubs and supporters encouraged to raise awareness of a disease which kills 10,000 men a year in the UK.
With no Premier League or Championship fixtures on Saturday 6th September, it’s a perfect opportunity to experience the non-league and support volunteer-led, community clubs.
The Wearside League is the 11th tier of English football, incorporating teams from Teesside, Durham, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Sunderland.
There are four fixtures in the Wearside League this weekend, with another six in the Shipowners Charity Cup and Monkwearmouth Charity Cup. Teams such as Boldon CA, Sunderland West End and Easington Colliery are all at home on Non-League Day.
Peter Maguire, the Chairman of the Wearside League, says:
“When you go to non-league football, every penny that the clubs get at the gate is used to support the club and keep the club going. At non-league, that support is appreciated massively.
“The Wearside League basically bridges the gap between local football, park football, and professional football. It’s the old-fashioned amateur league.
“The difference between non-league football and professional football, in my opinion, is that when you come down to non-league you see 100% effort every time. Every game is basically a local derby because the teams play in such a close proximity.”
James Doe adds: “Many non-league clubs are almost exclusively volunteer run, with money taken at the turnstiles often funding thriving youth set-ups, projects and facilities which are of benefit to the whole community.
“The level of skill on offer at non-league grounds will never compare to that at the Emirates Stadium or Old Trafford, for example, but there are other sides to the experience, from which the smaller club will always win hands down.
“The vast majority of games still kick off at 3pm, ticket prices are realistic, you can often stand (and drink) anywhere in the ground and will always be guaranteed a warm welcome by people who run their clubs for the love of the game.
“Even if you only go to one non-league game this season, every pound spent on your visit will make a real difference so please don’t pass up the opportunity.
For more details on Non-League Day, including a match finder, visit http://www.nonleagueday.co.uk/. SportsByte will be building up to Saturday’s event throughout the week, with interviews and stories across the Wearside and Northern Leagues.
A selection of North-East Non-League Day Fixtures
Easington Colliery AFC vs Gateshead Leam Rangers (Wearside League, 2.30pm)
Stockton Town vs Harton and Westoe CW (Wearside League, 2.30pm)
Sunderland West End vs Silksworth Colliery Welfare (Wearside League, 2.30pm)
Boldon CA vs Jarrow FC (Shipowners Charity Cup, Round 1, 2pm)
Ashbrooke Belford House vs Whitehaven (Shipowners Charity Cup, Round 1, 2pm)
Annfield Plain vs Spennymoor Town Reserves (Monkwearmouth Charity Cup, 2pm)
Chester-Le-Street vs Knaresborough (FA Vase, 3pm)
Darlington RA vs Sunderland RCA (FA Vase, 3pm)
Jarrow Roofing BCA vs Ryhope CW (FA Vase, 3pm)
Consett vs Thackley (Fa Vase, 3pm)
Blyth Spartans vs Buxton (Northern Premier League, 3pm)