Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm and the cars are starting to arrive at Homelands, the Stadium of Ashford United FC currently in the South Eastern Counties League, Level 9 of the FA grading system.
Ashford United v Tunbridge Wells
We are very lucky here in Ashford, attendances usually go somewhere between 150 to 200 a game, some Clubs in the same league battle to get 50, a sad situation bearing in mind that when I used to go watch Tonbridge Angels with my Grandfather back in the late 1950′s / early 1960′s, the Ground would often reach it’s capacity of 3,000 plus.
What’s gone wrong?
This obviously reflects a number of things..
1. TV. Obviously all of Media want to focus on top class and is brought to us through our armchairs.
2. The Celeb Culture of the last 30 years or so which has made many a Premier League Player a household name and pin up!
3. More money. People can in many cases afford ticket prices to top Clubs (although probably paid for on their Credit Card).
4. The general Public want to see the perfect pass, the speed, the fitness etc.
5. The World has got smaller, it’s easier to travel and quite common to support a Team 300 miles away.
All the above five points can be challenged though in just a few words; both Teams playing each other in a lower League are on about the same par skill and fitness wise and still give their Fans a competitive game full of incident and not without some good skills thrown in.
You’ll still see fans moaning, groaning, cheering. You’ll still see fouls, disagreements, red cards and probably hear the expletives a lot clearer! Plus of course, depending upon which Team you support, the Referee is always wrong!
Applaud your local Team
What has diminished is the local support. Sure the local Papers will try and install some interest, but most readers will skirt over those pages, reach for the National Paper or switch on the Internet to read about the Clubs who have so much money they just have to spend it on Players valued at millions and have Staff to attend to all their needs from booking a Hairdressers Appointment to sending an Interior Designer around to change their 30 feet square toilet!
I love watching Match of the Day on TV plus the occasional live Sky game but nothing beats ‘being there’ whether it be at The Emirates or Homelands.
One thing which usually is a lot better at non-league Clubs is the Food. You can’t beat the Burgers at Ashford United !!