There are only two days left until Non-League Day and, while we will have to see whether the initiative has anything like a significant effect on attendances in the lower leagues, it certainly seems as if it is receiving a lot of publicity at the moment, which can only be a good thing. If the aim of Non-League Day is to raise the projfile of the game, it certainly seems to be working but, while finding out the latest news, opinions and information on the Premier League is relatively easy, it can be a little trickier of the team that you’re looking for only attracts crowds of a couple of hundred people.
With that in mind, we thought that it would be time to bring you a quick list of ten essential non-league sites. In the interests of maintaining a degree of neutrality (and stopping arguments in the comments sections), we have left out any sites that are related to a specific club of any sort, even though there are dozens – possibly hundreds – of lovingly tended club websites, fan-sites and forums that deserve your time. Also, this list is not in any specific order. Each of these sites brings something of its own to the table of non-league football.
Moreover, they each demonstrate the strength of the non-league community. Most, if not all, of these sites are run by volunteers and the dedication of people like them extends to Saturday afternoons. Scores of volunteers – again, most of them unpaid – don’t even get to see that many of their team’s matches because they are working to ensure that there is a match that can go ahead in the first place. Non-league football would be immeasurably poorer without their contribution, and this should be clear from the selection of sites offered below.
1. Non-League Day: It would be unfair not start this update without referring back to the site which made this opportunity for the non-league game possible. This site carries an up-to-date list of all of the matches that are taking place this weekend, how to find your nearest team and how to get to their ground.
2. The Non-League Vidiprinter: It’s not always possible to make a match every Saturday afternoon and Tuesday night and The Non-League Vidiprinter, which is brought to us by the Non-League News 24 website, offers live updates from matches down to the foot of the Ryman, Zamaretto and Evo-Stik Leagues.
3. Tony Kempster’s English Football Site: Tony Kempster’s untimely death in June of last year brought to an end his non-league statistics site, but it remains online as an exhaustive library of statistics for the non-league game to the end of the 2008/09 season.
4. Tony’s Non-League Football Forum: Perhaps the greatest testimony to Tony Kempster’s work was the desire of his acolytes to keep his good work going, and the most striking visual manifestation of this comes in the form of his vibrant non-league forum, which continues to discuss many of the issues in the non-league game, down to the lowest level.
5. Mike Avery’s Non-League Statistics Site: Also inspired by Tony Kempster, Mike Avery has continued the good work and provides a vast array of statistics on the non-league game over the last couple of years as well as an archive of results and fixtures going back to 1997.
6. Pyramid Passion: David Bauckham’s website hasn’t been updated recently, but it does contain a personal guide to many of Britain’s non-league football grounds, as well as galleries to appeal to the obsessive in all of us, such as dug-outs, signs and floodlights. You’ll be surprised at how much time you can lose here.
7. The BBC Non-League Show: BBC Radio London has been broadcasting its indispensible radio show about non-league football for the last few seasons, but – at least for those that live in the UK – it is now available to everybody on a weekly basis through the “listen live” facility and to download as a podcast.
8. The Ball Is Round: General blogs about non-league football are still relatively thin on the ground, but Stuart Fuller’s site provides some terrific analysis from the foot of the ladder, looking up at the rest of the game. Along with its sister site, European Football Weekends, it covers a wider range of football than just non-league and both are more than worth your time.
9. The Real FA Cup: Although the focus of this site is the FA Cup itself, most of the sheer joy of football to come from it is to be found at this time of year, when the Preliminary and Qualifying rounds of the competition are being played out. The Real FA Cup features excellent writing and has a habit of picking up on curious stories that don’t get covered elsewhere.
10. Non-League Zone: It would be unfair to only include one forum on this list so, while Tony’s Non-League Football Forum is strong on the overall issues regarding the state of the non-league game itself, Non-League Zone carries lively forums for most clubs and leagues in the north of England.
Finally, it would be remiss of us to miss out the Supporters Direct website. While Supporters Direct deal with other clubs outside of the non-league system, but they have acted as a life-saver to many non-league clubs in helping supporters groups to take control of their own destinies in running their own clubs. It’s also worth pointing out that this is a mere sample of the best. There are many more, of course (and feel free to link any recommendations that you may have in the comments section below), but we simply didn’t have time to give them all the credit that they so richly deserve.