AFC Totton 186 (360 lge game ave.); Arlesey 92 (173); Biggleswade 168 (186); Burnham 92 (152); Chippenham 224 (303); Frome 224 (214); Hemel 511 (440); Hungerford 112 (117); Stourbridge 321 (401); Weymouth 428 (670); Hitchin 114 (401)
What can you say about this? To the greater public, most don’t know the difference between a league game, league cup game, FA Cup or FA Trophy game. They don’t care if there is a difference, because most people outside of the non-league community don’t even know about the fabric of the game. So, the people who are being selective about their spectating habits are those that know all about the game. Or do they…really?
Most clubs don’t have the faintest chance of league success. Over a 42-game league season, or 46 thanks to some hair-brain decisions made to extend the leagues when they are crying out for rationalization, only the best teams rise to the top. You don’t get lucky over a season and you don’t struggle and lose if you’re unlucky. Over a nine-month campaign, the truth prevails.
That means for most clubs, the only hope of any tangible success is in cup competitions. Yet the game is rapidly turning its back on most competitions, considering the league is the be-all and end-all of life. But in the Non-League world, there is no huge prizes for surviving, it’s not the Premier League for pity’s sake! So why do managers field weakened teams and why do teams quite obviously go out of the major cups cheaply?
It’s a sign of the times and a sentiment that started in the pro game and has become contagious. Managers are judged by their league performance and that’s why they place too much emphasis on league results and discard, all to easily, the cup competitions.
Now there are cup competitions and there are cup competitions. County cups, like stage coaches and public hangings, are a thing of the past. Eight-team tournaments have little credibility. League cups are also debatable, although with 80-odd teams in a league, there’s some cachet if teams only realized it. There are solutions for the lack of enthusiasm for these competitons, but it requires foresight and imagination and a programme of incentivisation that is not merely about money. The FA Cup is still a competition to capture the imagination of the non-league world, and the FA Trophy and FA Vase should be right up there. The financial rewards of all three are not to be sniffed at.
If league success is elusive or unrealistic, then competitions like the FA Trophy are the only way the average club can get the slightest glimpse of silverware. They should be the jam on the bread and butter that is league competition and a way to raise much-needed funds for the club.
If a football club’s darts team has more trophies on the shelf than the first XI itself, then it’s time to take the odd cup competition more seriously….