The Football League caused a storm on social media yesterday when it announced plans to reduce the sizes of divisions and add a further eight clubs to the ‘professional game’. It was a surprising move from an organisation that had surely viewed the feedback from Greg Dyke’s B-Teams proposals from two summers ago. Football fans on the whole are conservative, and do not like their game being meddled with and if you are going to meddle with their game, you have to make it clear how it will benefit them. Unfortunately there was little for the fans within the proposal. While it’s clear that the Football League had consulted with the Premier League and the Football Association, it appears that other stakeholders such as football supporters, the non-league game and even the clubs in the Football League themselves weren’t consulted.
The press release is interesting as it makes many claims about fixture congestion, costs of travel and the potential for increased revenues. Where has this information come from? It would be fascinating to know what studies the Football League undertook in order to come to these conclusions. The Football League don’t appear to have consulted the clubs themselves regarding the proposal, so it’ll be interesting to find out what data they used to draw their conclusions from.
While having exactly 100 clubs may satisfy those who enjoy completeness and order, it does raise some interesting questions. One it changes the nature of the FA Cup. Traditionally all Football League sides enter the FA Cup at the First Round stage. Surely this can’t continue if eight more clubs are being added to the league? These clubs can’t automatically gain a First Round berth, as it would restrict entry for the rest of the non-league pyramid. Additionally the non-league pyramid would have to change itself as it would potentially lose eight clubs. The obvious solution is for the upper echelons of the non-league pyramid to slim down the National League (24), South (22) & North (22) to 20 to match the Football League.
What remains most puzzling about this announcement isn’t its contents. It’s that they didn’t feel the need to try and take the clubs with them when coming up with a proposal. Surely if you want to enact change, you need to try and bring as many people with you as you can. Whether it’s arrogance or simply incompetence, it’s hard to tell. What does seem clear from this proposal and the B-Team nonsense is that some sort of change is on the horizon. The Premier League came in 1992, the leagues renamed to the current Championship, League One and League Two in 2004, and if these things go in 12 year cycles we’re due a change. Whether that change is seen as a good one for fans and clubs remains to be seen.
There’s a seemingly ever growing campaign against the issues and excesses of modern football. This is most popularly seen through the excellent magazine http://www.standamf.com/, though the banner of “Against Modern Football” is a wide While it’s unlikely we’ll all agree with every single case made against ‘modern’ football, it’s hard not to feel sympathy with many of the arguments made.
While we think that being against modern football is a new thing, this article from 1902’s Burnley Express illustrates that being against modern football, isn’t very…. well… modern at all.
The article decries the lack of local players within the clubs competing in the recent FA Cup Final. While the influx of foreigners is a relatively new thing in the Football League (it was effectively banned until 1978), teams like Accrington fielded teams made up entirely of Scotsmen in the 1950s.
One thing for sure, modern football is never going away, and neither is being against it. #amf
Article: British Newspaper Archive: Burnley Gazette, Wedenesday April 20th 1902.
Bovril is a staple in most football grounds in the United Kingdom. It’s a meat (specifically beef) based drink that’s packed full of salt. It’s a fantastic way to keep yourself warm in those dark, dank February evenings as your side loses to Risborough Reserves in a Floodlit Cup tie. It has a long history in the UK, and its adverts were ubiquitous in newspapers before the second world war (and even after it). Here are some we’ve dug out from the excellent “British Newspaper Archive”.
Dundee Courier – 13th March 1903
Many of the claims made in the adverts are difficult to corroborate or verify. One thing’s for certain whilst we still attend football matches, there will always be space for Bovril. After all mummy says so.
Dorking Wanderers play in the shadow of Box Hill in Surrey. It’s a hill that’s perhaps more famed for its difficult climbs during the Olympic road race rather than the football that is played in the valley below. But like those difficult ascents during the Olympics of 2012, Dorking Wanderes were also trying to make an improbable climb out of the Ryman League South into the Ryman Premier Division.
Dorking Wanderers were only founded in 1999 and after a series of successive promotions they passed the town’s more illustrious club (at least in years of history) Dorking FC. So the game against Faversham Town was the biggest in their short history. A chance to face either Worthing or Hythe for a place in the Ryman Premier against the likes of non-league poster boys Dulwich Hamlet.
Team sheet for the evening
It was the home side (who ran out to the pleasing tune ‘The Wanderer’) who set the tempo of the game early on. Their exotically numbered Jerome Beckles who wore an ‘Argentinian 5’ playing just in front of the back four was tackling well and using the ball effectively. It’s not often a player runs the game so well from the centre of the park in a non-league match at this level. The games can often pass midfielders by (often over their head) but Beckles was able to put his foot on the ball and dictate play.
Unsurprisingly it was Wanderers who took the lead on 10 minutes, after some excellent build up play the ball was whipped into the box and finished expertly by Luke Hackett. Despite being 1-0 down at the break it was still a very even game, and Faversham proved that by drawing level just after half-time from John Scarborough.
Playoff matches are so often great affairs as both sides are generally evenly matched, and that was certainly the case here. Whilst the Faversham faithful and the Wanderers fans were urging their own sides on to score the vital winning goal, the neutrals in the crowd (including me) were praying for a winner from either side in order to get home and out of the unseasonably cold weather. That godsend of a goal came in the 90th minute when Faversham Town’s Charley Robertson knocked the ball home to send Town’s fans into frenzy. The game was won and it will be Faversham Town who face Worthing (who won their semi final by an almost unfathomable seven goals to nil) in the final.
Faversham Town – winners of this playoff tie