Non League Football, a Primer: Part Two

In collaboration with Bill Turianski from website, today we present the second in our primers on the English football pyramid as we continue the week’s non-league theme. Here’s a wonderfully illustrated map of the 32 highest-drawing clubs outside the Premier League and the Football League. Click on the map for the full size version, and also see Bill’s site for the location map and thumbnail profiles of each Conference team.

Non-league attendance map small

It’s interesting to note a few things:

  • Three clubs formed by local supporters in recent years are in the top ten in attendance — AFC Wimbledon, FC United and AFC Telford. The latter is perhaps the most impressive example, and we’ll have an article later on the week on why community run clubs should be the way forward for non-league football.
  • You might also notice Ebbsfleet United in 26th place, the team in the process of being bought by MyFootballClub at the moment.
  • Near the top of the attendance tables are several former league clubs who were woefully mismanaged when in the league by their ownership, including York, Cambridge and Exeter. All have struggled to get past the debt they were left saddled with, and supporters’ trusts have played key roles in saving all of them.
  • Fittingly, the team top of the rankings is Oxford United, who have perhaps the grandest history in non-league football: they fell out of the Football League in 2006, just eighteen years after they’d been in the top flight of English football and nineteen after winning the League Cup. They were the first team in English football to have won a major trophy and later be relegated to non-league football. Edit: As Tybalt notes in the comments, AFC Wimbledon (as the successor to Wimbledon FC, whose honours they retain) won an even bigger honour, the F.A. Cup in 1988 — remember John Motson’s cry as they beat Liverpool, “The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club!”?
  • Another team with an echo of past glory is Exeter City, in second position, who have a remarkable claim to fame: they were the first overseas team to play Brazil, on a tour of South America in 1914. They drew 3-3, according to the BBC. Formerly of the Football League, tough financial times saw them drop to non-league football in 2003. They’ve been saved due to heroic efforts by the Exeter City Supporters’ Trust.

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