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Why Do We Do It?

I have been involved with local football for more years than I care to remember. I suppose my interest stems from my first job as a local reporter covering Lowestoft Town in the then Eastern Counties League in the early 1970s. Subsequent journalistic moves saw me cover the fortunes of Sheringham Town, Cromer Town, Beccles, Wymondham Town and Hethersett Athletic to name but a few. I have also, in the line of my work, reported on Chesterfield, Nottingham Forest and Norwich City for a variety of radio stations and newspapers. My involvement with football shows no sign of diminishing. I am currently chair of Hethersett Athletic and a member of the Norwich City Supporters Consultative Group. Recently I was looking through some old local football programmes and came across an article written for Wymondham Town in 1985 which I think still sums up the appeal of local football. The article is reproduced below.

On a cold, damp days in the depths of December or January with the crackling warmth of a fire beckoning, it takes a special kind of person to get up from his or her favourite chair to watch a local soccer side.

Wrapped up in numerous sweaters, coats and gloves, the intrepid follower fears the cold, intense wind from which it will take hours to thaw out on their return home. So why do we do it? Why do we subject ourselves to the elements week after week after week? No we aren't totally mad - it's just something that gets into the blood. And it's what keeps local football going. There are no half measures. It takes dedication on the part of the unpaid men and women to keep local football sides going.

Club officials are not faceless people who attend committee meetings in the warmth. They are the people who put goalposts up, paint lines, run the bar, organise social events, and generally look after the well being of the club. That these people exist will ensure the survival of local clubs and ensure that the game flourishes. When these people give up clubs struggle and everything is left to the players who cannot concentrate on what they are supposed to be doing - playing football.

With the problems that exist in professional football (remember this was written in 1985) - crowd trouble, excessive admission prices, threats of a super league - more and more people will be turning to local soccer as the purest form of the sport. Aren't we all tired of the crush, the hassle, the uncertainty of the professional game? I believe that the outlook for local soccer is very healthy. Many people say that the players are not as skilful as 10 or 15 years ago, but that is all part of the "past is best" syndrome. Players by and large take part every Saturday afternoon for the love of the game. That doesn't mean to say there are no problems in local soccer. Players or backroom people on ego trips are plentiful but thankfully also very much in a minority.

The relationship and frustration between players and referees is still there and this is caused by two factors. Firstly many players refuse to accept that a referee's ruling is final and binding. Arguing with an official can only end in one of two things - a booking or a sending off. At the same time a few officials show a pomposity that wrecks any hope of a compromise between the two factions. More give and take by both referees and players would go a long way towards solving this problem.

Peter Steward 1985, updated 2007