The Late Jim Thompson

The death of Jim Thompson last week was a passing that left most people in the non-league game with mixed feelings. On the one hand, Thompson was the chairman of the Steering Committee which led to the formation of the Alliance Premier League in 1979. Within eight years, the closed shop of the Football League would be gone forever, and non-league football would experience a revitalisation that it still reaps the benefits of now. On the other hand, he was reckless in the stewardship of his own club, Maidstone United. Maidstone left their home without planning permission to build a new one, and the events that followed would lead to the near-bankruptcy of another club and leave Thompson banned from football by the FA. The end of amateurism in non-league football had been a long time coming, but it didn’t automatically solve the problems of the new semi-professional game. Crowds had started to fall at the end of the 1950s, and by the end of the 1970s there were only a handful of clubs that could boast average crowds of over 1,000. Thompson, then the chairman of Southern League side Maidstone United, was placed in charge of the committee which founded the Alliance Premier League, taking ten clubs from the Southern Premier League and ten from the Northern Premier League. The aim was an increase in playing standards, with...

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