7 challenges to running a non-league football club


England is regarded by many, inclduing the sport’s international governing body FIFA, as the home of football. But working out such grand titles isn’t just about the game’s history. Neither is it about the country hosting the world’s richest domestic football league in the Premier League and football behemoths such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and more.

Not at all, it’s what happens underneath the professional game.

The National League System of non-league amateur clubs in England is a staple of the game below the 92 Premier League and EFL clubs. It is home to 58 leagues and 84 divisions – and that is before you consider the youth, ladies, Sunday and midweek leagues that all rack up behind and below.

It means thousands of clubs spend each year managing football players, providing facilities and making sure the beautiful game is something to be enjoyed for those who want to get involved.

Despite such high numbers, the job of running a non-league club is harder than ever – from sharp end of the National League against those wanting a professional return, to those genuinely happy with just taking part.

Here are seven tough challenges those clubs now face…

1 Finding players is no easy matter – never mind them being available

Be it pressures on people’s time, the fear of coming up against a tough tackling midfielder, an inability to regularly commit or some of the other issues we’re about to mention, non-league clubs have been disappearing at an alarming rate in recent years, 3,000 to be exact from 2007 to 2012 alone. The increasing popularity of five-a-side football and futsal are stepping into the traditional 11-a-side void, while initiatives like the introduction of rolling substitutions have also tried to reverse the recent trend.

Simply put, without the players and those willing to help manage, run and organise the clubs the sport is a lost cause.

2 Bank-rolling and recklessness is far from the preserve of the Premier League

It’s quite clear what the impact has been on professional clubs in a number of European leagues. Paris St Germain won the 2015-16 Ligue Un title embarrassing early, while the Premier League’s wealth continues to draw some of the world’s wealthiest sport investors.

Money and the wreckless attitude that comes with it  is not restricted to the professional game.

From a Salford City club now owned by the former Manchester United heroes known as the Class of 92, to numerous other clubs on the fringes of the EFL along with others who have made it into the professional ranks, there is more money than ever in the amateur game. It’s just concentrated in small pockets. Non-league clubs are under pressure to find ways to compete with clubs that have bottomless pits of money. If you think that’s hard to do in the Premier League, just imagine tackling that further down the ranks.

3 It’s far from simple staying afloat yourself

At a time when land is so valuable, non-league clubs are under pressure to use what they’ve got properly including things as fundamental as their pitch.

And that is a significant issue when so many clubs don’t have someone writing a blank cheque each season and instead, it’s 12 months of scraping together every penny they can.

All football clubs have a role to play in their communities. Various grants and non-governmental organisations are keen to help out like Sport England. Any club needs to make the most of every opportunity and providing it helps them fulfil their role.

4 The world is getting smaller – unless you are a football club

At a time when the top clubs will fly 20 minutes to an away fixture and competitions span ever increasing geography, it feels like some of the bigger non-league clubs are done few favours over their travel arrangements. Suffolk coastal town Lowestoft have had to play in the northern half of the non-league’s second tier and they were far from the only ones.

Further down the order, clubs are turning down promotions to save themselves both bigger travel bills and the need to ask even more from players, who don’t forget are already in short supply.

It all poses a fundamental question: What’s the point in playing if you don’t really fancy the prize?

5 It’s all about the next generation

Football is big business and that means a lot of people want a slice. The rapid increase in private football academies and soccer schools now sits alongside professional clubs desperate to process as many young players as possible so they can unearth that one true diamond.

Non-league clubs feel that pressure too. Every club wants to have players buy into its set-up as early as possible, as well as unlocking the funding, good will and respect that comes alongside girls’ and women’s teams. Whether it be adding teams or starting from scratch with your own club, it all comes with a lot of work and plenty of cost be it money or time.

6 You need to protect what you’ve got

No matter how big or small it is a football club is a proud being. Proud of its people, its supporters, its players and its facilities. Whether money is raised by volunteers or a rich owner, clubs will want to look like the real deal, from changing rooms with good showers to a playing surface resembling a bowling pitch and goalposts that look just like the ones at Wembley.

As well as shelling out the money to bring those in, it all needs the maintenance from individuals, the ability for those facilities to bring in more revenue and the security of keeping it all safe from theft and available to use hopefully bringing in more of those players for all age groups for years to come.

7 Competing with the television

When non-league clubs were originally taking over the world, it was the ideal fix for football fans who wanted to do it themselves rather than watch the action live at a stadium.

Now of course, the football TV landscape is very different. With a top-class football match from somewhere in the world broadcast live on your screen almost every day, is it really as appealing to do the playing yourself?

It’s a question plenty have answered with the word no, but annual initiatives such as Non-League Day are at least trying to redress.

Written by Lee Carnihan

Changing the face of Football


It is without doubt that grassroots coaching is slowly and surely challenging the status quo of “the elite”. Every weekend mums and dads go out in force to devote their time to the development of young footballers across the country. It is this commitment that is most admirable about the grassroots coach. It is the prerogative of most of these coaches to provide a fun environment for their kids, focussing upon growth and development.

The disparity between development football and performance football is lessening all the time. As we go through this transition from old-school coach-centred coaching to the more autonomy-supportive child-centred coaching, I feel it is important to not only analyse the mistakes of the past, but to also focus our attention upon what was good about the previous old-school approach.

Looking back on the success of the class of 92’, it is vital to the future success of English football that we understand what was good about the approach. Having researched Alex Ferguson I come to the conclusion that the players regarded him as a father figure. He was a firm manager, and despised the arrogance of the modern game. It was his brutality and resilience that gave him a bad reputation in the over-reactive press. Underneath the thick Scottish attitude was a humble, intelligent and honest man who gained the respect of his players through offering his support. It was not unusual for Ferguson to invite new signings to his house to welcome them to the country and the club. He was simply a man of strong principles.

In modern football characters such as Sir Alex Ferguson barely exist mainly because the players are given more power. Football has become a money-making machine and the players are at the forefront of the wealth that football clubs exude. This power is mainly used in an irresponsible way, with players overly relying on the input of support staff to ensure their performance is up to scratch. The modern day footballer is effectively like a child waiting to be fed. This can be seen across the board in elite football with kids given their every need without having to lift a finger. We have moved from a brutal culture to an over-protective culture, and the next transition needs to encapsulate the two.

There are many positives that have been brought about by the influx of wealth to football. The rise of science means players are more physically prepared making gameplay much more intense and exciting for fans. This wealth has also increased diversity in the sense that the Premier League offers more cultural variety compared to any other country in the world. On a more macro level, this means that children watching on the TV become more used to seeing players with different origins and different stories. This has increased the awareness of social inequalities such as racism, homophobia and stigma of mental health sufferers.

On the flip side many believe that money has ruined the game. The game has become more about making money and less about the people that are involved whether coaches, players, support staff and even fans. There is an arrogance about elite football that forgets about the people who have provided the foundations. This is a reflection of the lack of introspection and self-awareness that exists in the UK, but also the majority of countries in the world. There is a paradox that holds the football world in place, the selflessness of good-honest people that nurture players, and the selfishness of elite football that takes all the credit for the success.

It is conformity that stunts progress in any cultural shift. Non-conformity comes about when individuals feel empowered to make their own decisions. Unlike the cultures of the Mediterranean and South America, the UK has always been constricted by a lack of freedom. This is a cause of the long-standing class divisions that have always existed. This class divisions creates a hierarchy in which individuals must fit. The class division prevents people from expressing themselves freely in fear of being cast-out and isolated. It is our prerogative to feel liked and valued, and hence breaking out of this hierarchy can often feel like swimming upstream and being alone in the wilderness.

The famous philosopher Christopher Columbus once said “you can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”. In essence for football to change its cultural identity, the selfless grassroots must conjure the courage to challenge the arrogance of elite football. This process can only take place when individuals take personal responsibility for their confidence, or lack of, to understand that their lack of courage keeps the wrong people in power and has a negative impact upon not only those within the football community, but on a broader level in the UK and beyond.

The recent rise of Leicester City was a monumental success in the course of history, and was a signal of what can be achieved when good character is combined with modern science. This was only made possible with the appointment of Claudio Ranieri, a humble yet knowledgeable man. He was lucky to enter into an environment that was already singing off his hymn-sheet, focussing on the development of people and not the development of the number in the bank account. Leicester City have a culture within the club which is significantly different from other clubs, their open-mindedness bears integrity. They embrace psychology, philosophy and physiology. They accept that that through synergy exciting new opportunities exist.

The thing that is most admirable about Leicester City’s achievement was the style of play that Ranieri instilled, it was stereotypically English. Whilst it may be the temptation of the pessimistic English to write off Leicester’s success as a one-off, those that have done their research understand exactly why it worked. It should be the prerogative of coaches in the UK, to base their coaching upon the success of Leicester, utilising an inside-out and a whole-part-whole approach.

We must first develop a culture of respect, open-mindedness, and ambition. Then have the knowledge and understanding to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of each player and how to improve them. Lastly we must be able have the tactical knowledge to understand how everything works together, ensuring that players have both freedom and structure. This process starts within grassroots as we are not slaves to the money-making process of elite football. Coaching my own grassroots under 14’s team, I am hugely excited for the upcoming season given it will be our first at 11-a-side. Whilst I feel I have a good understanding of the game it is my ambition to mix it with the best, and so seeking to learn more about the game as well as my own strengths and weaknesses will be vitally important to our success. It is this commitment to our own self-development which will have the biggest impact upon this much needed cultural shift.

Written by Joe Dean Bryson

Movement and Spatial Awareness

This routine is from Lee Moroney of St Anne’s GAA Club, Dublin and Head Coach of CoachApproach Ireland

Age Group – 6-13yrs

Ideal number – 20-30 children

Layout –

Hula hoops, cones, whistle, 2 set of coloured bibs, four soft sponge balls, a tennis ball net or something simlair (ropes and chair)

Action – Part 1

4 Players have a hula hoop they must run around and only with their HAND tag other children when children are tagged they must join the hoop with one hand only. This will encourage team work, movement and spatial awareness as children try to  avoid the taggers and avoid bumping into other children who are running.

After all children are caught whoever has the most on their hula hoop is the winning team.

Pick another 4 children and play game again.
*If you have more than 20 children you should pick 5 taggers

Action – Part 2

4 teams different colour bibs 2 courts (hall spilit in two)

8 Hoops – Each team picks two child to stand in the hoop.

5 or 7 a side

Aim of the game is to pass by throwing the ball into your team who stands in the hoop after they receive the ball in the with a clean catch (no fumbling or dropping the ball) the player who scores (ie throw ball to team mate in the hoop replace)


Progression children are only permitted to hand pass the ball Gaelic Football style, an under hand striking action (hold ball in NON-WRITING hand and with writing hand strike the ball to team mates chest)

Rule Book

1 Players are permitted to run into any space WITHOUT the ball.

2Players are NOT permitted to run when they receive the ball

3. Players may not wrest/grab the ball from opponents hands

4 Players may intercept a pass to gain possession for their team and they may also block a throw.

5. Teams can not score in the same hoop twice in succession

6. Player who receives the ball in the hoop, begins the game again by setting up an attack to the other corresponding coloured hoop and are replaced by the player who just scored.

If a player breaks any of these rules the opposing team receives a free throw which cannot be intercepted.

Play two games per session blue v red, green v yellow and blue v yellow, red v green ( 7 mins per game)

Modernisation + Realism = Preseason

The basic definition of Pre Season is to prepare the squad for the season ahead, in terms of fitness and tactics. We can complicate these things by adding silly factors of periodization, testing and all the rest of it. This approach is complicated and tiresome. Keep it simple, basic and fun.

Everybody remembers the tiresome 10 mile runs, the cooper test (Continuous running for 12 minutes) and sprints down the beach/up a hill. How on earth do these exercises reflect what happens on a pitch?

The question is how does a coach relate pre-sea son to what happens on the pitch? To me, it’s a very simple solution. Use small sided games/tournaments and drills with a ball at their feet. That’s just common sense, develop the feel for the ball.

Hosting a 5 a side tournament against teams in the local 5 a side league. Holding an intra-squad competition in different conditioned small sided games. Everything should involve the sport and the ball. The SSG’s are the fitness exercises and tactic drills needed to develop the squad within pre-season.

Some examples of conditions can be:

  1. Limit touches of each player
  2. Number of passes before shooting
  3. Method of Scoring

These are simple conditions that make players think about their decision making. Therefore, it sharpens the players’ psychological state for the game. Fitness aspect also comes with this, as the effort put in increases.

We’ve all heard of suicides (as called in the epic movie ‘Coach Carter’). How can this be adapted to involving the ball? Simple, and it goes as follows:

  1. Pair players up
  2. Place 1 ball on start line
  3. Players perform traditional shuttles 2 reps – 1st rep without ball & 2nd with ball (touchline to 18, touchline to hallway, touchline to opposition 18, touchline to opposition touchline and repeat with ball)
  4. After 1st player completes the 2 reps, partner takes over and perform drill
  5. After completing drill, have the partner time the other and have them competing with each other.

These are very basic methods to keep the pre-season phase as simple as possible. Keep it fun and involve the ball in every game & drill.

Written by @CODSportsSource

Old School Coaches 3L’s

(I’ll apologise now if I lose my temper during this piece)

Just in case nobody has heard of the 3L’s, they are:

  • Lines
  • Laps
  • Lectures

I’m sure we don’t need examples of these. We’ve all been witness to, or on the end of, a 30 minute lecture, and it has done nothing but bring our confidence down. Waiting 10 minutes, while standing in a line, to get 1 touch of the ball and a shoot on goal.  The old preseason days, where the session consisted of running 12 laps around the perimeter of the pitch.

We’ve been tormented through these tedious rules and philosophies. Is it really that hard to put a ball at players’ feet, give them a game (Traffic Lights, King of the Ring, Dodge Ball etc) and let the boys have FUN? That, at Youth level, makes sense, otherwise, they become demoralised and no longer interested in playing the sport.

Now, let’s talk about elite youths/amateur football, we know the routine of warm up, game related activity, conditioned Small Sided Game (SSG) and finishing with an unconditioned SSG. Keeping the players busy with no nobody standing still or unchallenged.

How do I do a preseason without any of the 3L’s, I hear a lot of coaches ask? Easily, ball at their feet and keep the session/activity relevant to the sport. LET THEM PLAY THE GAME!

Conditioned Small Sided Games will get your players match fit quicker in training than anything else, without playing a full competitive match against an opposition. Several full time clubs use SSG’s such as:

  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Turned Goals
  • Multi Goals
  • Touch Per Player
  • Minimum touches before shot
  • Futsal

Many teams use these SSG’s to host intra-squad tournaments, getting the competition and match sharpness/decision making built up ‘in-house’.

Surely the method of SSG’s instead of the monotonous 3L’s is purely common sense?

Written by @CODSportsSource

Fun and games…

A friend from twitter has something lined up for us.

Players line up outside 18yd box, 1 player goes in goal, coach plays ball in & 1st player in line shoots first time. If they miss or saved, they go in goal and MUST save next players shot to stay in. If GK saved or scored on their go, they go to back of player line outside box. 1st GK always joins end of line. Play until you get winner.

Progressions – We also adapt it, add things like if a player shoots over the goal, they bring the first person that went out back into the game etc…

Why I coach…

So tonight I was chatting with other volunteers and we added up the number of hours we put into football on a voluntary basis. Mine is about 10-12 hours worth on a normal week without any funding bids or extra events, that is the normal training, matches and admin. If I got minimum wage for this I would earn £61.90-£74.78 pw but instead I spend a good amount on petrol each week. To most people this sounds complete madness, why would you do that if you don’t have kids involved etc? But I just love coaching! It made me think why? What really motivates me as a coach?

Tonight was a prime example. I got to the club early to set up and there were people up there cutting the pitches and sorting out markings. One a coach, the other his lad who plays for the club. Both willing to give extra to the club. Half hour before training my 2 young leaders turned up to set up the session they had planned. A little while later another 2 leaders turned up to help them. I would like to point out now these leaders are all aged between 13 and 16. They all want to give back to the club and they are all girls I coached. Then more coaches and more players turned up, everyone greets each other. It is such a friendly community I love the club I coach for, people are happy to give back to the club. I’m not sure i would enjoy coaching anywhere near as much if I was with a different club.

In total there were 7 squads up at our ground tonight. All players had smiles on their faces and all players loved what they were doing. THEY are why I coach. Seeing the older players interact with the younger ones, older players taking on leadership roles and developing as a person not just a player. Seeing that many kids up there enjoying something and improving as people and players is just amazing. It is evenings like tonight that give me a complete buzz. On top of that I spoke to many of the parents tonight about a few things ready for the new year and had volunteers to get involved and help out the coaches, all parents eager to help give their girls all the support they can, it is amazing. At the end of my session I spoke to the older girls, I asked them about becoming leaders and representing their team on our parent player committee and they almost argued over who would be on it as they all loved the idea.

Lastly I spent the rest of the evening (a good hour and a bit) chatting to other coaches, sharing ideas and chatting about things such as futsal. Coaches will always complain about the workload etc however when you talk to them about what they actually do when they coach it is like they get excited by it, they want to learn and share and that pushes everyone involved even more.

I can’t think of anything better to do with those 10-12 hours though and i cant wish for a better place to volunteer. After speaking with several coaches/young leaders tonight and seeing so many kids running around at the club it just makes me want to turn those 10-12 hours into 15 hours or more. So why do I love coaching? Because I love seeing people develop, coaches, leaders and players, I love to be part of a group of people all enjoying helping out and doing what they do!

An article I found written by sports lecturer and coach chloe brown, get her web site and original aritcle checked out pronto.

Source http://cblilwebspace.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/why-i-coach/