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Friday, 1 July 2022

Here We Go

Last weekend saw a handful of pre-season games being played but the start of July surely marks the official beginning of the new 2022/23 season.

Saturday is very busy with matches and so many clubs, despite the increasing costs that they face, are offering free admission, 'pay what you want' or football for a fiver.

I've tried to retweet as many as possible @affordablefooty but if you're looking for fixtures, here are some sites that have proved invaluable to me over the years.

The London Football Guide - James Doe is the man behind Non-League Day and set up TLFG to provide a comprehensive guide to football (at all levels) in the capital and its suburbs. On a weekly basis he runs through all of the fixtures of note and is also happy to answer queries from anyone coming to London and looking to catch a match.

Football in Berkshire is an excellent not for profit site that doesn't leave a stone unturned when reporting on football at all levels in the county.

The excellent She Kicks magazine also has a website with features, stats and regular fixture updates covering all levels of the women's game in the UK with Scottish Women's Football a great source of information north of the border.

Staying north of the border, if there is a game on then Scottish Football Fixtures will have it listed, similarly Kentish Football for the garden of England.

The Northern Counties East Football League is my local Step 5 league and the home of Hallam FC who have featured regularly on the site. The NCEFL website is an excellent resource for results and fixtures and there are many similar sites covering leagues up and down the country.

And, for the pleasure of having the fixtures actually in your hand, the Non-League Paper is published every Sunday and still costs just £1.80, an incredible achievement. As well as comprehensive coverage of games played the previous day, and the non-league scene generally, they have detailed fixture lists at the back of the paper.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Opening Day at The O's

You don't often see clubs putting on a ticket promotion for the first game of the season but it makes sense in many ways, the weather is more likely to be good and optimism should be in the air for a good campaign ahead.

Leyton Orient are doing just that for the League Two opener against newly-promoted Grimsby Town on Saturday 30 July, match tickets when they go on sale in a couple of weeks will be half-price.

As the club themselves say, it is 'the perfect opportunity to introduce friends and family to Orient' and with the main source of ticket income for the O's perhaps more likely to come from season cards then it is not really a gamble to reduce individual prices in the hope of converting a few more people to what looks to be a friendly and inclusive matchday experience.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Who Gives You Extra?

I do like clubs who at least try and give their season ticket holders a sense of ownership, something a little bit extra when they have made a real financial commitment for the upcoming campaign.

It doesn't have to be much but it can foster a bit of goodwill that takes buying a season ticket beyond just being a straightforward financial transaction, increasingly one that happens online rather than down at the ground.

Something like the upcoming open day at Barnsley FC fits the bill...three different Reds sides will be in action on Saturday 16 July, culminating in the first team on the main Oakwell pitch at 5:30pm, the opposition yet to be confirmed but with admission free for 2022/23 season ticket holders.

Add in a funfair, Fan and Kids Zones and more and it should help give everyone a bit of a lift heading into the League One campaign after relegation last time around.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Cheaper Football at Crawley Town

New owners, new manager and a new start for Crawley Town this summer with WAGMI United having completed a takeover of the Sussex club in April and with Kevin Betsy recently installed into the managerial hot-seat.

I'm not going to pretend I know much about WAGMI's business of cryptocurrency and NFT's, and there have been some doubts voiced as to how things may play out but one of the first moves of the new owners has been to bring down the cost of watching League Two football in this coming season.

That means a reduction of up to 34% on season tickets and, more relevant to this blog perhaps, a drop in matchday ticket prices which now start at £15 for an adult on the terraces.

More accompanied children can now go free following a change to the age limit on such tickets from  under 11 to under 16.

Co-chairman Preston Johnson told the official club website: "We want the matchday experience to be as vibrant as it can possibly be. 

"To help make that happen, we want to make it easier for families with kids to come down to the stadium and make a day of it."

Early sales have been good, with Johnson telling the Crawley Observer“It has been positive and just great to meet many of the fans coming into the club the last few days as well."

I have plenty of sympathy with those people tasked with making League Two clubs both financially sustainable while making progress on the pitch.

It's a level where clubs have lots of regulatory burdens which prevent them from having the easy-going feel of a day watching non-league football while also being squeezed from above, certainly by the Premier League where the broadcast income allows for policies such as the price cap on away tickets.

WAGMI had previously shown an interest in buying Bradford City and their success in selling season tickets has continued this summer with over 14,000 already gone.

Elsewhere in League Two, Salford City have held their matchday prices which means a maximum of £15.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

A Football Pioneer

The Egri Erbstein Tournament, to be held this summer at the home of Corinthian Casuals, celebrates the Hungarian coach who masterminded the great Torino team of the 1940's after surviving the Holocaust, before being killed in the Superga air crash of 1949.

Erno Egri Erbstein's former club Budapesti Atletikai Klub were reformed in 2018 and, together with the Casuals, formed the tournament to honour him.

Both clubs will be in action on July 23 and 24 together with the world's oldest club Sheffield FC and Fall River Marksmen of the USA.

More details at the tournament website.

Tickets for the weekend, covering all four matches are priced at £15 for adults, day tickets cost £10 for adults, £5 concessions and just £1 for under 18's.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

A Century of Football

Having first hosted a game in August 1921, a centenary of football at Borough Briggs will be marked later this month as Elgin City host a pre-season tournament featuring themselves, Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Inverurie Loco Works.

That first fixture was a Highland League one and the line-up for the tournament has past and present members of a league that has endured just as successfully as Borough Briggs.

Both Elgin and Peterhead moved up from the Highland League to the Scottish Football League in 2000 and remain there, Peterhead in League One and Elgin in League Two, although the tournament hosts endured a nervy 2021/22 season as they finished one place off the bottom of the table.

Filling that final position were Cowdenbeath who subsequently lost their league status to Bonnyrigg Rose, Lowland League champions and victors over their Highland League equivalent Fraserburgh in the promotion play-off.

That leaves Fraserburgh looking to retain their title and have another shot at promotion, although the three b's, Brora, Brechin and Buckie, will have other ideas.

Inverurie, meanwhile, will seek to build on an encouraging seventh place finish.

The tournament takes place over the weekend of 25/26 June, a beautiful time of year to be in the Highlands, with tickets available both for single days (family £20, adult £10 and concessions £7.50 for ground entrance) and the whole weekend (£30, £15, (£10).

Saturday, 28 May 2022

An Early Start

With their European campaign to prepare for, Cymru Premier champions The New Saints have pre-season matches already pencilled in for Saturday June 11 and Saturday June 26.

Ellesmere Rangers provide the first opposition (kick-off 2pm) before Cliftonville, with their own European adventure in mind, travel across for a 1:45pm start on the 26th.

Admission to both matches will be free for all spectators.

Last year, author Michael Grimes was kind enough to speak to the blog about his book 'From Saints to Druids' in which he travelled around the Welsh top division.

A limited edition, hardback copy of the book is now available from the publishers.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

The Bromley Boys

After making history with their FA Trophy victory at Wembley on Sunday, Bromley FC have launched a fantastic offer for the new season of National League football at Hayes Lane.

To mark the 97 minutes that were played against Wrexham at the weekend, season tickets will be priced at £97 for the same number of hours, starting at 12pm on Friday 27th May and ending at 1pm on Tuesday 31st.

More details on the club website here.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Something Missing

As the final pieces of the 2021/22 season jigsaw fall into place, thoughts begin to turn towards pre-season friendlies and the important dates for the campaign ahead.

Four years on from Russia 2018, however, something is missing as we wait and see what a winter World Cup will look like.

For those clubs where the bar is a thriving venue, and crucial income generator, there will be a big World Cup-shaped hole this summer, money that could have been banked for the uncertain times ahead.

The prospect of the top divisions of the game being shut down, for a month or longer, for Qatar 2022, is an opportunity for clubs across the country to continue attracting new spectators as so many have done over the past season.

At a time when the cost of living is the number one thing on people's minds, and with leisure spending perhaps first in line to be cut back, those clubs will, I'm sure, continue to offer an affordable afternoon in friendly surroundings.

But rising prices have an impact across the board and the cost of heating a clubhouse, turning on the floodlights or filling up the team coach will all have gone up sharply in recent months.

I've often highlighted the informative weekly bulletin provided by Hitchin Town FC secretary Roy Izzard in this blog, and this week he confirms that adult matchday admission prices have had to go up for next season for those very reasons. 

Saturday, 7 May 2022

The Overdue Hallam FC Piece

Many congratulations to Hallam FC, not just for a fantastic season where they topped the Northern Counties East Football League Division One, scoring 160 goals and topping a century of points in the process, but also for the amazing crowds that they attracted to Sandygate.

An average of 614 spectators came through the gates for home games, attracted by football for a fiver, a warm welcome, a bit of history and the chance to chat, drink and mingle along the touchline and in the stand, a simple pleasure that had been badly missed by many over the preceeding couple of years.

I've been going to the ground at least a couple of times a season since starting the blog back in 2013 and the improvement in facilities that has taken place since is a testament to the hard work of all concerned and also means the club has become more firmly rooted in its local community, witness the people taking advantage of the club bar over the recent holiday weekend.

Sandygate, home of Hallam FC, 2014

Sandygate, home of Hallam FC, 2021

Although the club will be playing at a higher level next season, matchday prices have been kept at £5 for adults and £3 concessions with Under 12's free. Season ticket prices are also frozen.

Another positive development on the Sheffield sporting scene is the opening of the new Community Stadium at the Olympic Legacy Park, sited on the old Don Valley Stadium.

Sheffield Eagles Rugby League team will be the primary tenants but a Hallam FC Legends team is taking on a Sheffield Legends XI on Sunday 15th May, in aid of the Roundabout charity.