Non League Daily

BLOG: Time for a rethink on FA Trophy and Vase finals

I passionately believe that a major re-think is needed on how the FA Trophy and FA Vase Finals are marketed writes NLD blogger Tony Incenzo

It should be possible to bring the whole Non-League community together for a glorious Jamboree Gala day at Wembley Stadium.

Now before I set out my argument for a revamp of these Finals, I should point out that I have some very good and long-standing friends who work in different departments at the Football Association. So this column is not meant as a criticism. Just my viewpoint which hopefully will be helpful.

I have been an avid follower of Non-League football for more than 40 years. I grew up in North-West London and I used to watch my local teams – Hendon, Barnet and the old Finchley FC – whenever I could as a school kid.

Nowadays, my diet of attending Non-League football mainly consists of groundhopping. But I always try to take in the major Finals at Wembley.

This season however, I was very disappointed with the attendances at those showpiece games…

18,120 for the FA Trophy Final, Cambridge United 4 Gosport Borough 0.

5,431 for the FA Vase Final, Sholing 1 West Auckland Town 0.

Now compare these figures to the record crowds for the respective Finals:

53,262 at 2007 FA Trophy Final, Stevenage Borough 3 Kidderminster Harriers 2

36,232 at 2007 FA Vase Final, Truro City 3 AFC Totton 1

Yes I know there was special interest in 2007 as it was the first year that the Finals returned to the re-built Wembley Stadium. But even so, there has been an alarming decline in crowds since then.

It must be getting towards the point where it is no longer viable to stage these Finals at the national stadium – especially the FA Vase. That would be a great shame for the players and supporters of the participating clubs.

Therefore I would like to propose that the Vase and Trophy Finals are held at Wembley on the same day. I would call this the Non-League Jamboree Gala Day. It could be on a Sunday in mid-May when there is very little other football taking place.

The kick-off times could be at 1pm and 4pm with the bars and food outlets open all day plus other entertainment. There could also be an England ‘C’ international at 7pm to round off the whole occasion.

Another crucial element of my proposal is sensible ticket pricing. At this year’s FA Trophy Final, for example, seats were £30 for adults and £15 for children.

But why not take a leaf out of the world of rugby? Twenty-four hours before the FA Trophy Final, Wembley Stadium staged an egg chasers fixture between Saracens and Harlequins. Tickets were sensibly pitched at just £16.50 for adults and £5 for children.

As a result, some 83,889 people flocked to Wembley - a new world record for a club rugby union match.

Another initiative that we could introduce for the Non-League Jamboree Gala Day would see every club that participates in the overall FA Trophy and Vase competitions being encouraged to sell 50 tickets and run a coach to Wembley.

A total of 276 teams took part in the 2013/14 FA Trophy competition with 535 in the FA Vase. If they all sold 50 tickets each, it would bring 40,000 to the Gala Day on top of the supporters of the respective finalists and other neutrals.

I can hear people now saying: “Our club couldn’t sell 50 tickets!” Well even the smallest of Non-League clubs have 50 people involved – first team and reserve players, committee, supporters and WAGS.

If clubs were allowed to keep £5 for every ticket sold, then it would be a great fund raiser and a big incentive to fill a coach for Wembley. You would also enjoy a great day out with the whole of the Non-League family coming together in celebration.

Anyway, those are my ideas. Let’s embrace and boost the FA Trophy and Vase Finals. The alternative is losing their traditional place at the national stadium due to a lack of interest.

You can follow Tony Incenzo on Twitter @TonyIncenzo

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