Uncertainty. It’s a word that currently lingers over the origin of the beautiful game, with the coronavirus pandemic threatening to abolish grassroots clubs as the #LetFansIn campaign begins to spread, in a desperate yet urgent attempt to save some of the most historic and tattered clubs in English football.
We’ve seen non-league clubs pledging to their devoted fan bases to donate any available funds that they may have at their disposal so that football teams can keep their heads floating above the dreaded tsunami that is financial desolation, which has already claimed Droylsden FC in these pending circumstances, as the Bloods resigned from the Northern Premier League and all cup competitions on Thursday.
Sometimes the donations can work and even attract higher parties helping out those in need, after all Gary Neville donated a huge helping sum to Brighouse Town, who were a local non-league club that held a huge place in his heart because of his father.
Nevertheless, football has never needed more aid from the higher authorities, it’s never needed more unity and alliance than right now, as the shade of doubt continues to cast itself even further over the non-league clubs- with it’s shadow creeping further and further.
One team who have benefit from the coronavirus pandemic is Bradford (Park Avenue), who currently engage in the National League North.
The Avenue had a disastrous 2019/20 campaign, ending the season at a measly 22nd position on a crestfallen 20 points after 33 games, 12 points adrift of 20th positioned Curzon Ashton. Due to the FA’s decision to null and void the non-league stage below the National League North, it meant that no new teams were set to enter England sixth tier, so therefore none could exit.
Therefore despite the clear distance between Bradford and survival and their despondent year, the West Yorkshire side would remain in the National League North for the 2020/21 season.
BPA were also in the news this week as club stalwart and man mountain Adam Nowakowsi, who operates as a defensive midfielder or centre-back offered his services to the Horsfall Stadium for just £1 a week. Players at their level usually earn up to approximately £400 a week, but Nowakowsi has even stated that he wants to cover his own travel costs to and from games to ‘give something back’ to not only his beloved Avenue, but to football as a sport.
Nowakowsi spoke on his decision as a part-time footballer and part-time sales executive, saying: “There’s lots of businesses in tricky situations, so I thought it was my time to give something back to a club that’s close to my heart in Bradford with a lot of my family from there. The pandemic means that there lots of financial unknowns this season, not just for the Avenue but all non league clubs, so I decided to offer to sign for the club on £1 per week to help support the club during this difficult period.”
Bradford Park Avenue manager Mark Bower praised his leader, claiming: “Adam’s been a really important player for us for the past two seasons, playing in several position and always having an impact in games. His versatility and personality have a made him a really popular member of the squad both within the dressing room and amonngst the supporters. He has gone above and beyond in committing to us next season and we are delighted that he has done so.”
The Bradford hero has gained plaudits and recognition for his selflessness and kind-hearted actions, not only from the club and manager Bower, but also from fans on social media. Bower and Nowakowsi both featured on Sky Sports News, painting the club who, were admittedly not under a great spotlight because of their survival despite it being controversial, but instead giving BPA a good name and good reputation amongst the more elite football fans who may not have heard of the non-league club. He even turned down much better offers from other non-league sides, but opted to take a pay cut at the Horsfall Stadium to help the club survive in such uncertain and unresolved times.
Adam Nowakowski’s courage and altruistic behaviour will hopefully send a message to the rest of the non-league community, times may be tough and clubs may be hanging onto their very existence by a thread, but whilst the Premier League and even parts of the EFL have become disillusioned by the financial aspect of the game, non-league remains pure.
The unified body of those below the EFL is remarkable and the larger clubs should take note of how club’s and players alike have each others back and look out for one another, the uproar and condolences sent from so many footballing sides to Droylsden was impeccable following the club’s demise, but it showed how close together the non-league scene is compared to the Premier League, and why it’s going to take more than just donations and best wishes to survive, but rather selfless and marvellous acts, like Nowakowsi has demonstrated, with more to follow most likely.