Ever Onwards

It is, I suppose, the $1 million question: was Northern League Day a success or wasn’t it? For Ryton and Whickham, whose decision to kick off at 11.30 enabled people to take in two games in a day, the answer, unequivocally, is yes. “Best atmosphere around the club in a long time,” said Ryton, who drew their third highest crowd of the season and won their first game in forty-two attempts. There were officially 120 people at Whickham -around three times the figure they might have ordinarily expected to turn up for an end-of-season match with Washington – providing extra receipts of around £450. Brandon United, who produced a bumper 68-page programme for the day featuring many of the articles from this site, also reported a bigger than usual turnout. The numbers might seem small (the crowd at Ryton was 103 and there were only 38 at Brandon) but at this level small numbers can make a very big difference.

Of course, there were clubs who Northern League Day appeared to bypass altogether. Only 111 took in the Newcastle derby between West Allotment and Benfield, while despite extra press coverage, South Shields against Stokesley drew in 172, fewer than the 200 the Mariners were hoping for. “I have to admit to being profoundly disappointed with the result of mail shots, forum messages, newspaper articles and the like,” wrote a poster on the South Shields forum. “The numbers were poor and failed to achieve anything like the response we hoped for. Where indeed do we go from here?” The answer, needless to say, is to keep on going, learn the lessons and make the next thing you do bigger and even better. Ultimately, articles in local newspapers, radio interviews and putting leaflets through letterboxes are no subsitute for bringing a few mates along to a ground and giving them a reason not just to attend in the first place but, much more importantly, to return with friends of their own. For better or for worse, these days very few people go to a non-league football ground just because it happens to be on their doorstep. Northern League Day was about persuading people to give the Northern League a go. Did it work? I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

Here’s Paul Brown, James Williams andReynard’s Hunting Grounds.

As for us, after a whole week recouperating in Spain, we’re back and already looking forward to more of the same next year. Not that you have to wait that long to see a game yourself…

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