Football Conference recently released their new television deal with broadcasting newcomers BT Sport. An agreement was made on Conference Premier matches being broadcast live on air, but the question is, do the lower leagues deserve more exposure to the media.
Both Conference North and South divisions have showcased some excellent talent in the past few seasons with Crystal Palace’s £5m rated Dwight Gayle playing for Bishops Stortford during the tail end of the 2011-12 campaign. These clubs rely on volunteers and external small media teams to portray such talent. If it wasn’t for these people giving up their spare time and money, several non league clubs would be in the depths of despair. Football Exclusives is just one of many voluntary run websites which has over 50 aspiring sports journalists, web editors and cameramen on their books (including myself). Back in 2012, these young journalists were appointed with team to report on every weekend and sometimes conducted interviews with the managers. After a revolution of the website in June 2013, the search was on for more journalists and a specific match day criteria was created. This included a minimum of 500 words for the report and compulsory match day interviews. I believe that these opportunities give young people the chance to get an idea about the media industry which is extremely beneficial towards their future career. Despite the recognition of these websites and youtube channels were exceeding low in the 2012-13 season, a growing number of advertising campaigns on social networking sites is giving them greater exposure for the season to come. But do you believe that independent websites are big enough for non league and what it offers?
The newly branded ‘Calor League’ is level 7/9 on the national league pyramid and is also covered by minority websites and voluntary media staff. Professionals such a Charlie Austin and Antoni Sarcevic have grown into the players they have become with regards to the lower league clubs. Poole Town, who are now in the Calor Southern Premier, was one of Austin’s teams where he also worked as a part time brick layer. After a trial at League One side Swindon Town, Austin made the switch to his home county of Wiltshire where he played for two years before moving on to Championship outfit Burnley. Sarcevic started out as a youngster at Manchester City before being released from his youth contract. Before moving to Chester, Antoni had a short role at league club Crewe Alexandra where he only made 12 appearences. After a loan spell at then Evo-Stik (Calor) Northern Premier side Chester, the Mancunian decided to turn his loan into a permanent deal. Sarcevic achieved consectutive titles with the Blues playing a large part in the teams most recent triumph of the Conference North. Then, with Chester now in the premier division, League 2 side Fleetwood Town came calling with an offer that they couldn’t refuse. Antoni Sarcevic can now call himself a pro footballer. Yet again, there are several players in these leagues with lots of potential but unfortunately, a lot stay unnoticed.
The main point that needs to be evaluated is that, although there are a few independent sites that cover non league, a lot more needs to be done to help these websites prosper for the future. If nothing is done about it, there could be a possibility that the next England captain is playing semi professionally for a lower division side.