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Saturday 4th April 2015 ko 19.30

Northern Counties East League Division One

PENISTONE CHURCH 0 Howes sent off (2nd booking) 70

PONTEFRACT COLLIERIES 7 (Danville 15 Radford 33 Moxam 34 56 Catton 74 Lindley 89 Whitehouse 90)

Att 511

Entry £5

Programme £1.50

We didn’t have much time as tired minds made for the foothills of the Peninnes, and the club new to the NCEL for this season. It was good to see the man in his day-glo jacket directing us in, and the staff on the gate shepherding the coach passengers through the pre-paid ticket gate. “A team sheet? Just go the table to the left of the clubhouse?” As organiser you just love it when all that planning and preparation bears fruit!

Except this time it wasn’t so much fruit, more like Chilli con carne! The club sold more of the stuff than any other club I’ve worked with, and I had to time my dash into the clubhouse to buy mine! Chris and I did the crowd count, grinned and found the stunned Penistone committee stood in a corner quietly trying to take it all in!

Sadly for them, the efforts off the pitch weren’t matched on it, and promotion-chasing Pontefract raced to an easy win, helped in no small part by Danny Howes’ dismissal. But this evening was about far more than the football, and much as the bumper crowd enjoyed it. With the hosts new to the league I suspected we’d get a Athersley Recreation– type crowd, and that is what we got- in fact 4 people more! Those crowds do not happen by accident, and neither does the ability to cope with them.

In the end, to some extent a hop gets the crowds it deserves. Do it properly, or quite frankly don’t bother. We at GroundhopUK ran 3 hops in 3 countries, taking in 20 grounds, over 5 weeks. We regarded that level of activity as a little risky, but the decision to run with it was vindicated by increased average attendances in Ceredigion and in the NCEL, and crowds higher than we could possibly have wished for in the Lowland League.

Present at Penistone was Whitehill Welfare’s Jamie McQueen, my telephone call with him was the start of getting the Lowland Hop started, and I joked that the average attendance in Scotland was higher than in NCEL. It was, but not by much, 378 against 373.5 to be exact! Across all 3 leagues every single club has every right to be proud of both their crowds, and the hard work they put in to THEIR matches. Without you, and your volunteers we at GroundhopUK would have no event to manage. Our thanks is heartfelt.

It’s now been a week since the NCEL hop, and we’ve started getting feedback from the host clubs. All are pleased with how their days went but the stand-out information was that two clubs made over £4,000 each. That shows the value of what we do, and it clubs didn’t make good money from these events, they’d soon stop!

So what’s next? Well the last hop of the season is the Notts Hop on the 24th and 25th April. That’s run by Rob Hornby, a man like us who does not believe in cutting corners. I hope his event get the support it deserves.

Then its Kim Hedwall’s (with a little help from me!) Swedish Hop based in Uppsala from 5-7th June which takes the whole groundhop concept and moves it in a direction I never expected when the first one was organised 9 years ago.

As for GroundhopUK that’s us finished for this season. We’ll be running two Irish trips in early July, then on the 31st July to 2nd August we’ll be running the United Counties/ Peterborough League hop, including a visit to the wonderfully named Rutland Dead Rabbits FC! Over August Bank Holiday we’ll be heading back to the Welsh Alliance for out final hop in that league, then on the 19th September it’ll the hop closest to my heart, the North Berkshire League. That’ll enough to keep us busy, and as I write we’re trying to get two more events off the ground, one in the North, the other in the South.

Until those, as I tend to say when I say goodbye after a game, “See you somewhere daft!”