This weekend marks the sixth edition of Non-League Day, an annual event where fans of the professional game are encouraged to take advantage of the international break in fixtures to provide support by going to watch a match at their local non-league club.
Saturday’s event celebrates the 40,000 amateur and semi-professional clubs in England and hopes to raise attendances across the country, providing revenue for those teams as well as giving new supporters the opportunity to experience the game at the level they may be unfamiliar with.
Premier League clubs have been raising awareness of the day among their fans. Everton defender Leighton Baines is one of the players who has thrown his weight behind the event, telling evertonfc.com: “It’s very important. I remember as a kid with my Grandad I’d travel around and watch lots of the local teams. We’d watch some of the games at Marine, we’d be at Bootle and a lot of my memories were travelling round and watching those games.
“I think there is a lot to be said for supporting your local communities and local teams. I think fans can support a Premier League side but there is still a lot of fun involved in going down and supporting your local sides as well. I think it’s great that we can get involved in a day like that and encourage people to continue to support the sides that aren’t always in limelight.”
Some of the clubs will be familiar to supporters of Premier League clubs, who use non-league grounds for Barclays Under-21 Premier League and Ladies’ matches, such as Boreham Wood for Arsenal, Southport FC for Everton, Tooting & Mitcham FC for Crystal Palace, Chester FC for Liverpool and Tamworth FC for West Bromwich Albion.
Less well known is the link the Premier League has with non-league clubs through the refurbishment of their stadiums; the Football Stadia Improvement Fund
The FSIF, which is funded by the Premier League and delivered by the Football Foundation, provides grants to projects that improve lower league facilities at all levels of the football pyramid.
Since 2000, more than 1,000 clubs have been helped by more than 1,700 FSIF grants worth more than £125million for a myriad of things, from new stands to turnstiles, floodlights to changing rooms, provision for disabled fans to PA systems.
This weekend alone there will be official openings of five refurbished facilities made possible with grants from the FSIF.
© 2015 Premier League | This article first originally appeared in Premier League on 7 October 2015.