Non-League Day founder James Doe believes Non-League Day can keep on growing and making a bigger impact as the iconic event enters its tenth year this weekend.
Clubs and fans across the country are gearing up for this season’s big day on Saturday with more record attendances expected to be smashed.
Non-League Day has been a major success each year since Doe launched the idea, which coincidences with an international break to encourage football fans to attend a Non-League game.
“I went to watch QPR in a pre-season game down at Tavistock in Devon,” explained Doe as he recalled how he came up with the scheme in 2010 on the eve of NLD 2019.
“As we were driving into town there were all these adverts everywhere for the match. The ground was absolutely packed and it made me realise how big it was for Tavistock, the money raised would probably keep them going for a large part of the season.
“I used to follow Harrow Borough all over the place but I’d become a bit disconnected with them when I went to university and moved away. This game reignited that spark and I went back early in the season.
“I heard over the tannoy they were fundraising for some new floodlight bulbs. I was quite stunned by that because I thought that would have been a routine cost for a club of Harrow’s size. It wasn’t that long after the financial crash and there were lots of stories going around about how clubs were cash-strapped.
“I had this eureka moment with an international break coming up where England were playing on the Friday and not the Saturday, which I think was quite a new thing at the time.
“I launched the idea on Facebook among friends, not really thinking much of it – get out and watch a game. Within six weeks of having the idea it actually took place.
“The Non-League Paper were covering it, The Non-League Show picked it up. The NLP did some number crunching and found that the attendances were up 12 per cent on the same Saturday the previous season. That was like, ‘wow!’ I still pinch myself that it’s still going let alone reached the tenth year!”
Since then, Non-League Day has continued to grow and grow with clubs offering unique deals to attract supporters while Kick It Out and Prostate Cancer UK also continue to support the event.
“There was the free mushrooms at Bungay Town, that was a big one!” said Doe. “The year before that they actually paid people to come to the game – it was 5p! They were the masters of the eye-catching deal.
“Dulwich Hamlet were the first club I am aware of who offered pay what you want with all the proceeds, after they’d covered their costs, going to charity. Their crowd went up to nearly 3,000.
“It does seem to grow each year and the pressures and demands that come with that are increasing.
“We had a very out-of-the-blue bill from Google Maps this week for our website because the traffic has gone through the roof for September which has never happened before. That was a bit of shock!
“There’s still a long way to go, some clubs still don’t know about it, some fans, and there’s plenty of room for growth. Non-League Day is a celebration of all that’s good about Non-League.”
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