About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Is the Conference bad for Non League Football?

Reading Dartford's programme last week I lingered on an article about the Darts' last season in what was then called the Gola League, now the Blue Square Bet Premier, and commonly known as the Conference.
This particular season, 1985/86, was also the last one before the Conference achieved their long cherished aim of automatic promotion to the Football League. This aim once realised simply grew to demands for more promotion spots, demands backed by increasing standards of professionalism on and off the pitch. This is reflected by comments from Braintree Town manager Alan Devonshire in last Saturday's West Ham programme where he states that 18 of the current Conference clubs are full time. Looking at that league table from 26 years ago, what has been the cost of this succcess?
Looking at the list of teams I was struck by the number that have suffered severe financial trauma whether it be losing their ground, entering an insolvency event or even going bankrupt. This number seems to be in the great majority over the likes of Wycombe and Cheltenham who are now established Football League clubs. 
The Conference's response to financial irregularities has been quite rightly to introduce stringent regulations to discourage clubs from living beyond their means and convey to the Football League an image of fiscal responsibility, but does this miss the point? Is the main cause of the problem the raison d'etre of the Conference, the achievement of Football League status?
By setting themselves up as an automatic access point to the Football League are the Conference doing non league football a disservice by turning so many formerly successful clubs into basket cases? 
Personally Conference status is not something I desire for Maidenhead United. In my opinion the club is already at the peak of non league/semi-professional football, and the game would be improved if the Conference National was simply absorbed into the Football League, preferably merging with League Two/Division Four to create two regional divisions. Beneath that there would be four divisions and so on to create a better pyramid.


Anonymous said...

55 professional and non-league clubs have gone into administration, or been deducted points for financial reasons, in the last 20 years. The vast majority of these cases have actually been clubs in the professional game, not non-league.

It is the worst record of any professional sports set-up anywhere in the World. (By comparison the Bundesliga has never had a club go into administration.)

The problem is much more ingrained into the British game than a handful of over-reaching clubs in non-league.

Lenny Baryea said...

Interesting article Steve.

"By comparison the Bundesliga has never had a club go into administration"

I'm a big fan of the 50+1 rule in Germany, but it's not accurate to imply that clubs over there don't encounter significant (sometimes terminal) financial difficulties

Steve said...

This article has been debated here:

and here: