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Friday 29th October 2021 ko 19:30

East Berkshire League-Premier Division

BRITWELL 2 (Malloy 48 Comber-Christian 90)

Malloy sent off  83 (2nd booking)

IVER HEATH 2 (Durrant 21 McAspurn 65)

Att 145 (85 paying) at the Gore, Burnham (Burnham FC)

Entry £3

Programme £1

I’d paid my three quid and was admiring The Gore’s new 3G pitch when a groundhopper approached me and laughed. “I live a mile from here, what’s your excuse?” he half asked/ half joked. He hit the nail on the head without really meaning to, why was I there? 

From a purely groundhopping perspective it didn’t make sense. If a groundhopper wants to tick off the Gore odds on they’ll do it for a Burnham game, but because I was there with my North Berkshire League committeeman hat on I was fascinated. Like the North Berks, the East Berkshire League isn’t part of the non league pyramid which amongst many other frustrations sees us starved of finance, publicity and sometimes even interest.

So when this game was being advertised as one of a series “Showcase” games here for the East Berkshire League my figurative ears pricked up, I went to see how it all worked, and yes, I’m usually up to watching a match in a any case! The idea does have some precedents, one that springs to mind is the Eastern Counties League’s series of Friday night fixtures, but they were shared between volunteer host clubs; this is a little bit different.

The idea when broken down is simple; hire a floodlit ground to use on a Friday night when no-one else in the league is playing, do a programme, and charge for entry to recoup the costs of hire. The gamble of course is that sufficient people will turn up make it worthwhile in terms of finance but also in terms of raising profile.  Predictably there were very few groundhoppers, 5 of us I reckon, but the crowd was healthy- 85 times £3 makes me think the gambit may have worked. 

It seemed to me the crowd was mostly made up of local football fans, club and league officials, and fans of the participant clubs, and the point being that this is exactly the kind of clientele that might be interested in turning up to another showcase game, should this become a regular occurrence. 

The game was an excellent advert for the league. Britwell were top of the league with just one defeat, against their opponents. If Muhammad Ali coined the term “Rope-a-Dope” for fights then Iver Heath used the tactic here. Time after time Britwell attacked, and Iver Heath absorbed the pressure, and hit back on the break. It was absorbing stuff and the sign of a good side is the ability to get something from a game when things aren’t going your way. 

So, something different from my normal offering, but that’s no bad thing. I’m sure other leagues will have done what I did and have a look at this idea, and I’ll watch with some interest whether it gets copied elsewhere.