The Joys of Non League Football.

Shaz talks about why he has a season ticket to a non league football team

The Not so Promised Land

For bizarre reasons, I am a Fulham FC fan. I was brought up to be a Man United fan, but as an idiotic 15 year old, I rebelled and picked Fulham at random. Last season Fulham were in the Premier League. It had been a few years in the Championship so I was excited to go and see the Whites (not white supremacists, they play in white) play against the Liverpools of this world once more. I looked at getting tickets to a match against Crystal Palace at home. Somewhere in the region of £30 is what I expected. When I found out the price was near £50, I almost choked on my pint of Brewdog. That was an extortionate price so I vowed not to go whilst the ticket prices were so high. Fulham are based in West London in a highly affluent area, but the team is rooted in a local community and ticket prices have always been reasonable. Not any more and this was demonstrated by protests about the obscene ticket price increase by fans.

The alternative

Going forward slightly. I had been to a couple of non league games because I have a friend who is involved with a non league team called Paget Rangers. I’d had a good time every time that I’d been to a game and made friends at the same time. A season ticket at Paget costs £50. £50 is the same price as for one Premier League game at Fulham. For £50 I’d get nearly 20 games as opposed to one with Fulham. As well as the price difference, I’d help support a local community hub.

Armed with this knowledge I spoke to then Chair of the club, Matt Dainty about buying a season ticket. Because I was friends with the club, I could also enjoy corporate hospitality at half time. Paget Rangers always provide a top quality buffet for the opposing teams board. Now this was an offer that I could not refuse. £50 for a season of football and chips? Count me in.

Being a season ticket holder

Paget Rangers are in the Midlands Football League Division 1. They are complete amateur in a league where many of the teams are semi pro. They always have an uphill struggle, but compete valiantly. During preseason they had to completely rebuild as the manager left for pastures new and took most of the players with him. This meant that Paget had to find an entire new team and manager.

The match day experience

Every match day is a positive experience. I get their before the game to have a chat with Tannoy Tom and we moan about life because we are bitter old men. We then watch Paget Play, this season they lose more than they win, but this means that the wins mean a lot more. A 3-2 win against the highly rated Lichfield City will remain in my memory for a long time. Lichfield City are gunning for promotion. Paget took a shock 3-0 lead and were able to cling on for the win. Lichfield hit the bar in the final moments of the game.

During half time I enjoy the corporate hospitality and have a chat with the Paget board members about how the game is going. I also get the chance to talk to the opposition members about how things are going at their club. There is very little of the vitriol and the hate that blights the higher end of the professional game. After the game I can enjoy a pint with the players and talk about the game and how things are going with Paget. There is absolutely no way that this would happen at the Pro level. The multi millionaires at the top of the game are kept far away from the fans, but at non league level, the link between fan and player remains tightly knit. Wins are celebrated and sorrows are drowned after a loss. Either way the community of Paget continues.

Summary

Becoming a season ticket holder of Paget has seen me become a member of the Paget family. I have been made to feel welcome. When every player leaves, they shake everybody’s hand. I am still a Fulham fan and will always want them to do well, but I will not have the same connection as I do with Paget Rangers. It is impossible to have the same community connection with a professional league team, where the players are on tens of thousands a week as with a team of amateurs, who are playing because they love football.

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