Originally published by SportsByte on September 2nd 2014.
The North East ambassador for Non-League Day says that he hopes this year’s event will be the most successful yet.
Now in it’s fifth year, the day set up to encourage fans from across the country to go and support a non-league club during the international break is being held this Saturday.
And with clubs across the Wearside and Northern Leagues, Mark Carruthers – the press officer at Blyth Spartans and blogger on North East and Cumbrian football – hopes that 2014 will be better than ever.
“The area’s known for it’s passion for football, whether that be Premier League or Sunday League,” says Mark. “There’s a lot of famous non-league clubs in the region, and the region as a whole is very proud of what it’s got.
“Non-League Day is a great chance for supporters to get out there and experience a non-league game.
“And we’re hoping that this year’s Non-League Day will be the most successful yet.”
Non-League Day was founded in 2010 by James Doe, initially as a social media experiment, and has since grown year on year.
The growth of the event has been “pretty unbelievable”, says James, adding: “It’s still far from cemented in the football consciousness of this country with the overwhelming amount of football fans I meet never having heard of it.
“Long term, my goal would have to be to reverse this trend and make it an easily recognisable event on the sporting calendar by as many people as possible.
“However, we are getting through to more and more people every year and given the amount of time, money and energy we spend on it we wouldn’t continue if we weren’t seeing clubs and fans participate and tell us how great the day was for them. Newcomers are often very pleasantly surprised by the standard of play and facilities.”
James adds that success for Non-League Day, at a basic level, would be to see increases in attendances, and the day has seen record attendances at clubs in the past.
Fans are encouraged to go and watch a non-league game on Saturday, with no Premier League or Championship fixtures because of international matches this Wednesday and the following Monday.
Most clubs at that level are volunteer-run and, while the level of skill will be some way off that seen in England’s top flight, there are still elements of watching non-league football that will appeal to fans, particularly those disenfranchised with the money, TV deals and match-going experience.
“Before I got involved with the Spartans, I was a Premier League football fan,” said Mark Carruthers. “I’m a Newcastle United season ticket holder. Since I’ve got involved with the Spartans it’s kind of hit home what the game is about at that level.
“It’s like football stripped back to what it once was. Away from the big money, the Sky deals. People are really playing for the love of the game. I really fell in love with the non-league game.
“When you go to a Newcastle, Sunderland or a Middlesbrough game, you’re kind of just another number; another pound sign through the gate. But when you go to a non-league game you’re really valued as a supporter and Non-League Day gives fans the chance to show exactly that. Get down and support your local club and it will really be appreciated.”