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Friday 06 September 2013

Premier League clubs show support for Non-League Day

This Saturday fans of bigger clubs can experience football at a level they may be unfamiliar with

  • Crystal Palace season-ticket holders can watch Thamesmead v Wingate & Finchley for £2

  • Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar lends his support to non-League Day

  • Phil Babb's Hayes & Yeading side take on Chelmsford City on Saturday

With the international break this weekend fans of the Barclays Premier League are being encouraged to continue their love of the game by attending a non-league match close to them or their favourite club.

"The Premier League saved us after the collapse of the Setanta TV deal"
Brian Lee, Football Conference Chairman

Beneath the 92 clubs of the Barclays Premier League and the SkyBet Football League there are 40,000 clubs in the semi-professional and amateur game in England and Non-League Day on Saturday, 7 September, provides a chance for fans of bigger clubs to experience football at a level they may be unfamiliar with.

On Non-League Day, as well as the variety of league matches, there will be matches in the FA Vase,  the annual football competition for teams playing below League Two.

Many Premier League clubs have sought to raise awareness of this among their fans, identifying local non-league clubs where there are matches they can attend. Fans at Barclays Premier League clubs also have been offered the chance to gain discounted entrance to local matches. For example, Crystal Palace season ticket holders can go to watch Thamesmead Town take on Wingate & Finchley in a Ryman Premier League fixture on Saturday for the price of the £2 matchday programme.

Arsenal, meanwhile, are helping Conference South side Boreham Wood FC with their travel arrangements. The club, who are managed by former striker Ian Allinson and are home to the Arsenal Ladies and Arsenal academy sides, will use the Gunners' first-team coach for their visit to Weston-super-Mare on Saturday afternoon. Other examples of promotions in place for Saturday are Fulham season-ticket holders and members gaining free entry to Walton Casuals v Redhill, while Newcastle United season-ticket holders can get discounted entry to Gateshead FC's home match (an offer in place throughout the season).

The Premier League has been supporting non-league football in many ways for a number of years including, in 2009, making a £1m solidarity payment to aid the competition when its television partner Setanta TV suddenly withdrew.

"The Premier League saved us after the collapse of the Setanta TV deal when all clubs relied on central funding," Football Conference Chairman, Brian Lee, told last year.

Solidarity funding

The Premier League pledged £6m in solidarity funding for the three seasons from 2010/11-2012/13. Going forward it has pledged a further £6.9m over the next three seasons to 2015/16.

"The Conference has grown in stature and all that has only been possible with the financial support of the Premier League" 
Brian Lee

"The solidarity payment is most invaluable," said Lee. "During that time, the Conference has grown in stature and all that has only been possible with the financial support of the Premier League."

For example for this season, of the annual £2.3m contribution, £1.4m is provided as funds to support all 68 Football Conference clubs, while £900,000, which is provided in conjunction with the Professional Footballers' Association, is committed to the Football Conference Trust to whom all Conference clubs can apply for youth development and/or community programmes.

With the Trust, clubs in the Blue Square Premier can apply for £20,000 each season, and those in the Blue Square North and Blue Square South can apply for £15,000. Fifty Conference clubs have accessed more than £1m of this fund to help them with 100 projects that encourage them to become an important part of their communities.

The Trust has also helped to attract more than £1m in additional matching funding towards these project costs. These projects have reached 11,800 people so far, of whom 7,000 are under 11.

Football Stadia Improvement Fund

In addition to this the Premier League has, via the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, been helping non-league clubs to improve their stadia. With £6m of funding exclusively from the Premier League, the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF) is the largest funder of non-league football in the country.

"We thank the Football Stadia Improvement Fund for their fantastic support without which the project could not take place"
Peter Rogers, Harrow Borough FC chairman

It helps to improve the comfort and safety of lower-league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game, with improvements ranging from new football stands and turnstiles to floodlighting and improved provision for disabled supporters

“The Non-League game is vital to the overall health of English football," Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the Premier League, said. "The Premier League is very proud of the funding we provide for it through solidarity payments and the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, which has seen investment in facilities right down to Step seven of the Non-League pyramid since 2000.

“Non-League Day provides a great opportunity to celebrate on the hard work that goes on at this level and we wish all involved every success.”

Since September last year more than 140 non-league clubs the length and breadth of the country have benefited from FSIF funding that has totalled more than £5.5m. Since the fund was set up in 2000, a total of £56.9m has been invested.

At Market Drayton FC, a grant of almost £20,000 from the FSIF has allowed the club in Evo-Stik Division South to build a clubhouse that will provide it with a sustainable income from bar and shop sales and a hospitality area for fans. The Stoke City team came along to Market Drayton to watch the official opening of the clubhouse over the summer.

Harrow Borough of the Ryman League Premier Division was able to enjoy a grant of £10,712 from the FSIF that enabled to have more energy-efficient floodlights that will reduce the club's operating costs.

'Significant contribution'

"We thank the Football Stadia Improvement Fund for their fantastic support without which the project could not take place," Peter Rogers, Harrow Borough FC chairman, said. "They have made a significant contribution to the continuance of football at the Earlsmead Stadium. True football supporters and the local community are much in their debt."

The FSIF's funds have helped clubs to get new fencing (Tow Law Town AFC, of Northern League Division Two), better floodlights (e.g. Pickering Town, of Toolstation Northern Counties East League), improvements to their changing rooms (Old Sodbury, of the Bristol Premier Combination) as well as a host of benefits.

As well improvements to their stadia, the Premier League offers non-League clubs funds to develop new or refurbished sports facilities to their local communities via the Premier League Community Facility Fund (PLCFF). Funded by the Premier League and delivered by the Football Foundation, the PLCFF is investing £18m over three years and is open to all football club community-led organisations from the Premier League down via the Football League to the 64 Football Conference clubs. The new PLCFF-enhanced sites will also help to strengthen links between the clubs and their communities, and will become venues for the clubs’ outreach work.

But it is not just the clubs that are benefiting from the Premier League's funds. Fan groups are also able to access Premier League resources, with £1.2m set aside each year for a Fans Fund administered by the Football Foundation. The Fans Fund is already the major funder of Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters' Federation but is open to applications from other fan groups, national or local, to support good ideas that help improve the experience of being a football fan in England and Wales."

To find the closest matches to you this weekend, visit the Non-League Day website.

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Key Points

  • Saturday 7 September is Non-League Day when fans are encouraged to visit non-League clubs close to them
  • Premier League has been supporting non-League football through solidarity payments and the FSIF
  • Premier League clubs are also promoting the day to their supporters