Chris Lakey: Non league clubs must not miss a chance to lure in fans

Crowds at The Walks could always be better - especially for a team doing so well Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Crowds at The Walks could always be better - especially for a team doing so well Picture: Jamie Honeywood


With international matches apparently/allegedly occupying the minds of football supporters, it’s perhaps time to look at the effect on the local football scene.

Or, perhaps more pertinently, what some local football clubs need to do to take advantage of a rare day when they are not affected by a neighbouring ‘big team’ claiming all the loyalties.

Norwich City are without a game this weekend, ditto Ipswich, as the Championship takes a break and allows their international players to go to the far-flung corners of Europe in search of glory.

Let’s backtrack a few days and to The Walks, home of King’s Lynn Town. Their game against Alvechurch had a little bit of added spice given the original fixture was postponed, much to the visitors’ annoyance, because of a frozen pitch and there was a disagreement when they refused to halt a warm-down session.

Anyway, they came and were beaten 1-0 after a superb 90 minutes when the players, to their credit, just got on with the job.

There was no hard feeling between the benches, although Lynn’s assistant Paul Bastock gave the visiting manager Ian Long a withering death stare when he kicked a ball rather too near to the Lynn technical area for Bazza’s liking.

The attendance was 755 – and they created a terrific atmosphere under the lights.

Lynn’s average attendance is 693, down on last season’s 780 and third behind leaders Kettering (790) and second-placed Stourbridge (749). It also puts them 57th in the non league attendance table which, frankly, is pretty good.

But is it good enough to keep the wolf from the door? Lynn owner Stephen Cleeve will tell you it isn’t - he’s poured a lot of money into the club in an effort to get a winning team together. It’s what you have to do.

Match admission is £13 for adults, £11 concessions – and the way Lynn have been playing, it’s value for money. It isn’t cheap, but football isn’t nowadays, and this is a good standard, it’s exciting and promotion is, again, a very genuine possibility.

But I have no doubt Cleeve thinks the gates should be bigger – and perhaps they should be. Which is why a few ticket package deals would come in handy – pair up a couple of matches for a reduced price, do more kids for free. I do think when they come, they will stay.

What no local team wants is a clash with a reasonable alternative – in our case, Norwich playing or, as was the case last night, an England game on the telly.

Friday night football has worked well at a local level – it generally avoids a clash with a City game – but I can’t work out why Dereham took what I’d consider a risk to play on a Friday night at the same time as an international, especially when the following day was ‘free’.

I’m told the date for last night’s game was set long before England’s international date was set, which I find unusual. But then I’d suggest you change it to the Saturday afternoon, when there is nothing to rival it – Lynn are away, City have their feet up, there are no significant internationals and, with Bury the visitors, no Ipswich game.

There is no telling what the effect, if any, was on last night’s gate, but why risk it?

Now, a look at a clutch of fixtures in today’s Eastern Counties League Premier Division: Gorleston v Histon, Great Yarmouth Town v Haverhill Rovers and Kirkley & Pakefield v Newmarket Town are within a stone’s throw of each other. On top of that, Lowestoft Town are also at home... four games within a dozen miles of the east coast.

On an international weekend when there is a window of opportunity at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, there are too many choices.

I don’t envy the football fixture compiler, but surely a bit of joined up thinking is needed here?

Every pound that comes through the turnstile is a prisoner and there really isn’t any need for clubs to ‘steal’ from each other.

This is what non league football’s wizards need to address, not how many play-off games they can squeeze in and how to juggle the numbers through countless more lottery one-offs.

Quiet over there ...

Strangely quiet over the border this week, don’t you think?

Has reality set in? Or has the recent run – six draws and a defeat in the last seven games – given Ipswich Town cause to ‘dare to dream’?

If the near inevitably of relegation has been accepted, then where’s the ‘fresh start’ vibe, which has been in line with the spin coming out of Portman Road of late?

Seems to me Town should be adopting this theme immediately – although I guess comparisons with Norwich City have to be made and that might just be off-limits for the Tractor Boys.

They resume after the international break with games against Hull (h), Bolton (a), Brentford (a), Birmingham (h), Preston (a), and Swansea (h). if safety is still on the agenda, by some miracle, they finish off with a trip to Sheffield United and then a home game against Leeds as their finale.

Which is probably why SkyBet won’t even offer you odds on them. Get out the bunting...

Not in my game

What’s happening to football?

This week we have had a women’s player fined for racial abuse; we have had Adam Johnson released from prison after serving part of a six-year sentence for grooming and a coach carrying Paris St Germain supporters to a women’s game against Chelsea was turned back after police because police found drugs, knuckledusters and fireworks in it.

PSG couldn’t understand the fuss: “We express our fullest support to fans of Paris Saint-Germain,” they said. “The local authorities have not provided any evidence of wrongdoing, at the least no facts that would justify such a ban to attend the match. All of our supporters have been searched, and if any of these searches or facts had been under criminal law, we can imagine that the concerned supporters would not have been able to leave British territory without being worried.”

My advice: never take a bus trip in France: you never know what’s under your seat.

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