billsportsmaps.com

July 3, 2017

2017-18 [Non-League] National League (aka the Conference) [5th division England], map with 16/17-crowds-&-finishes chart./+ features on the 4 promoted clubs (AFC Fylde, FC Halifax Town, Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United).

Filed under: >2017-18 English football,Eng-5th level,Eng. Non-League — admin @ 1:09 pm

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2017-18 [Non-League] National League (aka the Conference) [5th division England], map with 16/17-crowds-&-finishes chart



By Bill Turianski on 3 July 2017; twitter.com/billsportsmaps.
Links…
-2017–18 National League (en.wikipedia.org).
-Official site…thenationalleague.org.uk.
-Table, fixtures, results, attendance, stats…SUMMARY – National League [2017-18] (us.soccerway.com).
-5th division/National League page at BBC.com…bbc.com/sport/football/national-league.

-Hartlepool United’s new crest(s): 17/18 white home badge, twitter.com/BLKSportUK;
template badges, twitter.com/Official_HUFC.

-Maidstone United FC’s Gallagher Stadium is getting bigger with a £400k investment (kentlive.news).

-Preview…Michael Triffitt’s National League 2017/18 Preview (by Michael Victor on 25 May 2017 at sports.betvictor.com).

2016-17 brief re-cap…
Promoted…Lincoln City won the 2016-17 National League, winning automatic promotion back to the Football League, after 6 seasons stuck in Non-League. Forest Green Rovers won promotion to the Football League for their first time ever, after they defeated Tranmere Rovers 3-1 at Wembley to win the 2017 National League play-off final.

Now relegated down to Non-League/5th division/National League are…Leyton Orient and Hartlepool United. Both will be playing in Non-League football for the first time in many decades, with Leyton Orient in Non-League football for the first time since 1905; and Hartlepool Utd in Non-League football for the first time since 1921…

Promoted up from the 6th division and into the National League/5th division are the four clubs profiled below…

    Clubs promoted to National League for 2017-18, from National League North (2 teams) & promoted from National League South (2 teams)…
    (promoted from National League North: AFC Fylde & FC Halifax Town / promoted from National League South: Maidenhead United & Ebbsfleet United)
    AFC Fylde.

(Est. 1988, as Kirkham & Wesham FC, following a merger of Kirkham Town FC and Wesham FC; name changed to AFC Fylde in 2008.) Location: Wesham (in the Borough of Fylde), Lancashire (population: around 3,500/2011 figure). Wesham, Lancashire is located, by road, 7 miles (11 km) SE of Blackpool. Wesham is located, by road, 49 miles (79 km) N of Liverpool. Colours: White jerseys and pants, Blue trim. Nickname: the Coasters. Manager: Dave Challinor (age 41).

-From The Set Pieces.com, The Rise and Rise of AFC Fylde (by David Cowlishaw on 30 Jan. 2017 at thesetpieces.com).

AFC Fylde are from western Lancashire, just south-east of Blackpool, in an area known as the Fylde. Their opulent new stadium is in the very small town of Wesham (population of just 3,500 or so). AFC Fylde are owned by Lancashire-based businessman David Haythornthwaite, who made his considerable fortune in the animal feed business {see this interview, from the Lancashire Post, from 2015}. Haythornthwaite had twice tried to buy Blackpool FC, first in the late 1990s, and later around 2006. But he then decided to just take over a small Non-League club nearby: the then 10th-level side Kirkham & Wesham FC. Haythornthwaite took over the club in 2007, when Kirkham and Wesham were in the North West Counties League. The following year [2008], he changed the club’s name to AFC Fylde, and stated his intention for the club to achieve Football League status by 2022 – a proclamation the club have been wearing ever since, on the sleeves of their home jerseys {see photo below, of their 2008-09 jersey, as well as their 2016-17 jerseys, with the “2022” shoulder-patch}. Since 2007-08, AFC Fylde have won 5 promotions, and now draw 1.9 K per game. And it is starting to look like their 2022 target for promotion to the Football League will be attained ahead of schedule. In 2017-18, AFC Fylde won the league and the sole automatic promotion, beating out Kidderminster by 8 points. Led by Chester-born manager Dave Challinor (age 41), Fylde finished with a plus-46 goal difference, a number that was bulked up by the league’s top scorer, the local-born Tommy Rowe (age 27, born in nearby Blackpool), who netted an astounding 48 goals in 42 league appearances {see photo and caption below}.

AFC Fylde have benefited from the fan unrest at Blackpool FC (which is about 13 km, or 8 miles, up the road). There, the ownership (the Oystons) have so polarized Tangerines supporters, that the Blackpool average gate has plummeted over twelve thousand per game in 6 seasons (from 15.7 K in 2010-11, to 3.4 K in 2016-17). And it looks like AFC Fylde have picked up some of those disaffected Blackpool supporters. But nevertheless, AFC Fylde did not really start building a sizable fanbase until their swank new stadium opened. Their third-most recent promotion (in 2011-12, going up from the 8th level to the 7th level), saw only a tiny attendance increase of a couple dozen or so (from 322 to 345 per game). Their second-most-recent promotion did see a decent crowd-size-increase (a 200-odd-increase, going from 318 per game in 2013-14, to 531 per game when they went up to the National League North in 2014-15). But the minute Mill Farm opened [in August 2016], AFC Fylde saw crowds, for the first time, well above one thousand-per-game (they drew 1.9 K in 2016-17). (Below, in the illustration, there is a small chart showing AFC Fylde’s finishes-and-crowd-sizes for the past 6 seasons.) Now that they are in the 5th division, I think AFC Fylde’s crowds will certainly increase some more. But I think Fylde will soon end up hitting a ceiling with respect to their crowd-size growth.

A few years ago, we saw another tiny western Lancashire club, with a Sugar-daddy owner (Fleetwood Town), rise the ranks and build a thousands-strong fanbase. But even though the now-3rd-division-side Fleetwood Town continue to excel on the pitch (with a 4th place/playoffs-qualifying season in 2016-17), their crowd-size has plateaued at about 3.2-K-per-game. Actually, despite a very solid season, Fleetwood’s attendance actually dipped slightly in 2016-17, from 3.3 to 3.2 K. I think that this is what very well might happen with AFC Fylde. They almost certainly will get into the Football League, and probably before their 2022 target. But then I think they’ll stop being able to increase their crowd-size much more than to 3 K or 4 K or maybe 5 K per game. There is simply an overwhelming glut of Football-League/Premier-League-cailbre clubs in this northwestern corner of England, and there is, perhaps, not enough willing customers to fuel the continued rise of once small clubs like Fleetwood and Fylde. But I could be wrong. The one thing that Fylde has over Fleetwood is a more central location (Fleetwood is on a dead-end spit of land north of Blackpool, while Fylde [in Wesham] is situated more inland, right between Blackpool and Preston. That means Fylde, in Wesham, is smack between two 100-thousand-plus cities, each less than 15 minutes away by road {see that on a map, here}. At the following link there are photos of that new venue in Wesham, Fylde, Lancashire……{Gallery: Mill Farm Sports Village / AFC Fylde} (fwgroup.co.uk)}.
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Photo and Image credits above -
Aerial shot of Mill Farm and surrounding countryside, photo by Mill Farm Sports Village at mfsv.co.uk. Mill Farm, aerial shot by AFC Fylde at afcfylde.co.uk/mill-farm. Interior/match-day shot of Mill Farm from touch-line, photo by fwpgroup.co.uk/job/mill-farm-sports-village-afc-fylde. Football-League-by-2022 patch on jersey [since 2007], photo unattributed at timetoast.com/timelines/the-history-of-afc-fyldes-2022-campaign; 2022. 2016-17 AFC Fylde Jerseys, photos by afcfylde.co.uk/official-online-store/replica-kits. Dave Challinor, photo from afcfylde.co.uk. Danny Rowe, photo from afcfylde.co.uk/rowey-eyes-records.

    FC Halifax Town.

(Est. 2008/Phoenix-club of Halifax Town AFC [1911-2008].) Location: Halifax, West Yorkshire (population: around 90,000 /2015 estimate). Halifax is located, by road, 14 miles (22 km) W of Leeds. Halifax is located, by road, 205 miles (331 km) N of London. Colours: Blue (jerseys and pants) with white trim. Nickname: the Shaymen. Manager: Billy Heath.

From the Yorkshire Post, FC Halifax Town 2 Chorley 1 (AET) – Garner’s strike extra special as Shaymen earn return at first attempt (by Leon Wobschall on 13 May 2017 at yorkshirepost.co.uk/sport/football).

Halifax is, by road, 22 miles west of Leeds, in West Yorkshire. FC Halifax Town play at the Shay Stadium (opened 1921; capacity 14,000). FC Halifax Town share the ground with 2nd-division rugby league side Halifax Town RLFC (see caption in illustration below). The Halifax Town rugby league team has played at the Shay for 20 years now [since 1998], while the Halifax Town association football club has played at the ground since they were formed as a Phoenix-club in 2008.

FC Halifax Town are the Phoenix-club of Halifax Town AFC (1921-2008), who were dissolved in 2008 due to massive debts (with over £800,000 owed to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). Halifax Town had played in the Football League from 1921 to 1993, and from 1998 to 2002 (69 seasons in the League, with 40 seasons in the 3rd division and 29 seasons in the 4th division). The old club’s best finish was in 3rd place in the Third Division in 1970-71. Halifax Town were drawing in the 5-K-range back then in the late-60s/early-70s {historical attendance at european-football-statistics.co.uk/attn}. And the old Halifax Town drew as high as 6.9 K in the late 1940s. The original club’s peak-attendance in modern times was in 1998-99, at 3.0 K per game (which was the season after they had won promotion back to the Football League). But the original Halifax Town folded a decade later, in 2008.

A new club to take its place was formed that same year (2008), and the new FC Halifax Town were assigned to the 8th level, in the Northern Premier League Division One North. Since then, the new club has won 4 promotions and suffered one relegation (in 2016). And after one season back in the 6th tier, and under former North Ferriby United manager Billy Heath (age 46), FC Halifax Town have now returned to the 5th division, after winning the 2017 National League North play-offs. The Shaymen won promotion with a 2-1 aet victory over Lancashire side Chorley, in front of a 6th-division attendance record of 7,920 at The Shay {see photos below}.

Since re-forming, Halifax has averaged between 1.1 K [in their first season, in the 8th division] to 1.8 K [last season, in the 6th division]. The Shay is owned by the local authority in this part of West Yorkshire, the Calderdale Metropolitan Council. The Shay has been in a constant state of redevelopment since 2008 {the ongoing development of which you can see in the background of the last photo below}. The Shay was built into the side of a somewhat steep hill, a quarter-mile south of the town centre. The Shay currently features 4 largish roofed stands, two of which were built into the side of the hill. It is frankly too large for Non-League, but it must be pointed out again that Halifax just recorded the largest-ever crowd in the 6th tier, when they won that play-off final in May 2017. Granted, one needs to factor in the short travel-distance to that match for the traveling Chorley supporters (distance between Chorley and Halifax is about 49 miles by road). But still, that 7.9 K figure points to the fact that this Non-League club from West Yorkshire definitely has the potential to draw much higher than the 1.8 K they drew in 2016-17. {Here is a video…2017 National League North play-off final at Halifax, W Yorkshire, video uploaded by FC Halifax Town at We’re On Our Way ! Behind The Scenes-Play-Off Special vs Chorley (12:31 video at youtube.com).}
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Photo and Image credits above -
Shot of Halifax (from Beacon Hill), photo by Mr Barndoor at File:Halifax view from Beacon Hill.jpg (commons.wikimedia.org). The Shay (rugby-league-configuration), photo unattributed a totalrl.com jpg. The Shay (w/ large crowd for football match), photo by Pliny Harris at onefootballforum.co.uk/threads/the-shay-halifax-town-ground-guide. Screenshot of crowd at 2017 NL-N play-off final, from video uploaded by FC Halifax Town at We’re On Our Way ! Behind The Scenes-Play-Off Special vs Chorley [12:31 video at youtube.com]. Scott Garner scores winner in extra time v Chorley (National League North 2017 play-off final), photo by Tony Johnson at yorkshirepost.co.uk. Billy Heath, photo from yorkshirepost.co.uk/football. Halifax Town fans’ pitch invasion following promotion (play-off win), screenshot from video uploaded by twitter.com/ThomasFeaheny.

    Maidenhead United FC.

(Est. 1870.) Location: Maidenhead, Berkshire (population: around 73,000 /2011 figure). Maidenhead is located, by road, 30 miles (47 km) W of central London. Colours: Black-and-White [vertical stripes]. Nickname: the Magpies. Manager: Alan Devonshire (age 61).

Maidenhead United are from Berkshire, on the River Thames, located, by road, 7 miles north-west of Windsor Castle, and 30 miles west of central London. They play at York Road, and have done so since their second year of existence, all the way back in 1871 (146 years ago). Maidenhead’s York Road has now been officially acknowledged as the “oldest senior football ground continuously used by the same club” {see this, Country’s ‘oldest’ football ground in Maidenhead gets plaque (bbc.com, from Oct. 2012)}. You can see a photo of the English Heritage blue-plaque displayed at Maidenhead’s York Road, in the illustration below.

Manager of Maidenhead United is Alan Devonshire (age 61), who was a midfielder at West Ham United (with 370 league appearances and 30 goals, from 1976 to 1990). In his second spell as Maidenhead manager, Devonshire has just led the club to to their highest level, with automatic promotion, to the 5th division, as the 2016-17 National League South champions. Maidenhead United were the leaders of the National League South for most of the 2016-17 season, but almost lost that lead to Ebbsfleet United down the stretch. Ebbsfleet had beaten beat Maidenhead 1-2 in front of 3.3 K at York Road in Maidenhead, in the penultimate match. But, the following week, thanks to a final-match-fixture versus an already-relegated Margate, Maidenhead won 0-4 and sealed promotion to the National League automatically.

In the process, Maidenhead saw their crowd-size more than double – from 482 per game in 2015-16, to 1,012 per game in 2016-17. Further below, you can see a photo of their manager, Devonshire, as well as a photo-and-caption of the 2016-17 National League South top scorer, Dave Tarpey, who ended up with an incredible 1.07-goals-per-game work-rate (44 goals in 41 league matches). The photo of Tarpey is of him celebrating with teammates and fans, after a spectacular goal in December 2016. Here is a video of Tarpey scoring that sweet goal…{Maidenhead United’s Dave Tarpey scores wondergoal (0:22 video uploaded by Proper Sport at youtube.com)}.
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Photo and image credits above –
Maidenhead Bridge, photo by Tom Bastin at File:Maidenhead Bridge (1).jpg (commons.wikimedia.org). Action-shot [2011] of match at York Road, photo by Paul Paxford at flickr.com/paxie via pitchinvasion.net/a-year-in-non-league-football-photos [Jan. 2012]. Photo of UK historical plaque, by ChrisTheDude at File:YorkRoadplaque.jpg (en.wikipedia.org). Bell Street End, photo by Antti’s Football Scarves at saturday3.com/[york_road_maidenhead_united_18.08.2012]. Railway Stand (opened 2014), photo by Maidenhead United FC at footballgroundguide.com/leagues/conference/conference-south/maidenhead-united-york-road. Action-shot [April 2017], photo by Marc Keinch at pitchero.com/clubs/maidenheadunited/photos/[14 Apr. 2017 Maidenhead Utd 2-0 Concord Rangers]. Alan Devonshire, photo by PA at dailymail.co.uk/football. David Tarpey, photo unattributed at twitter.com/toptargets.

    Ebbsfleet United FC.

(Est. 1946 (as Gravesend & Northfleet FC). Northfleet, Kent (population: around 29,000/2011 figure). Northfleet is 25 miles (40 km) E of central London. Colours: Red shirts and White pants. Nickname: the Fleet. Manager: Daryl McMahon (age 33; born in Dublin, Ireland).

-From Kent Online.co.uk, Ebbsfleet United 2 Chelmsford City 1 National League South play-off final match report (by Steve Tervet on 13 May 2017 at kentonline.co.uk).
-Also from Kent Online.co.uk, Ebbsfleet United unveil further plans for Stonebridge Road as owners prepare for a Football League future (by Tom Acres on 14 March 2017 at kentonline.co.uk).

Ebbsfleet United are from Northfleet in northwestern Kent, which is on the south side of the Thames Estuary. Northfleet is located 25 miles east of central London, and just east of Dartford, Kent and the busy Dartford bridge/tunnel crossing there. This part of Kent is part of the High Speed 1 rail link to the Channel Tunnel and to Europe (at the Ebbsfleet International Railway Station/ see photos below).

This season [2017-18] will be Ebbsfleet’s 14th season in the 5th division. Previously Ebbsfleet had spent 13 seasons in the 5th division in three separate spells (1979-82 [the first 3 seasons of the 5th division], 2002-10 [an 8-season spell], and 2012-14 [a 2-season-spell]). They were relegated to the Conference South (now called the National League South) in April 2013. That point in time (early 2013) was right when the failed club-ownership venture known as MyFootballClub.com was winding down. Excerpt from Wikipedia…“Between 2008 and 2013, the club was owned by the web-based venture MyFootballClub, whose members voted on player transfers, budgets and ticket prices among other things instead of those decisions being made exclusively by the club’s management and staff as at most other clubs.” {excerpt from Ebbsfleet United F.C.}

Ebbsfleet United was established in 1946, from a merger between Gravesend United (est. 1893) and Northfleet United (est. 1890). They are known as the Fleet and wear red jerseys with white pants and trim. They play at Stonebridge Road, which abuts heavy industry (a shipping terminal and a metal refinery are nearby). Four years ago in 2013, following the end of the aforementioned web-based ownership experiment, Ebbsfleet United were bought by Kuwaiti investors fronted by new owner Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi (who is now Chairman of the club).

Now, with the new (and deep-pocketed) ownership, Ebbsfleet’s Stonebridge Road is currently under a comprehensive renovation and expansion, and all 4 sides of the ground are planned to be re-built. The first rebuilt stand, the new Main Stand (see it below in mid-construction), is slated for an opening at the start of the 2017-18 season, with the other 3 sides all set for similar refurbishment. The region is also seeing a regeneration, {see this: Green light for major Ebbsfleet redevelopment scheme (by Muhammad Aldalou on 22 May 2017 at insidermedia.com)}.

Ebbsfleet just missed out on promotion two seasons ago, losing the 2016 National League South play-off final to fellow Kent side Maidstone United. But in 2016-17, after narrowly missing out on automatic promotion, the 2nd-place-finishing Ebbsfleet went the extra step and won promotion in the play-offs, with a 2-1 win over Chelmsford City, on 13th May 2017. Before a solid 3.1-K-crowd at Stonebridge Road, in the 75th minute, Ebbsfleet MF Darren McQueen took an Andy Drury volleyed cross, and bundled the ball into the net, for the promotion-winning goal (see photos below).

Ebbsfleet had been drawing in the 1.1-K-range the last time they were competitive at this level (in 2011-12, when they finished in 14th place in the 5th division). The season they were last relegated (2012-13), they drew .8 K. Then they drew .9 K in the 6th division in both 2013-14 and in 2014-15, then drew a decent 1.2 K in 2015-16, and then Ebbsfleet increased their crowd-size a bit more to 1.3 K last season. Now, back in the 5th tier for 2017-18, and owing to the revitalisation of their ground, the Fleet will probably see their average attendance continue to incrementally rise, maybe to near 1.5 K (or maybe even higher, if they start the season well). I can’t confirm it, owing to the hard-to-find status of Non-League attendance figures from the 1979-to-2010 era, but if Ebbsfleet United do draw above 1.5 K this season, it will probably be their best-ever average attendance.
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Photo and Image credits above –
Northfleet/Gravesend shoreline at Thames Estuary, photo by Clem Rutter at File:NorthfleetThames8810.JPG (commons.wikimedia.org). Ebbsfleet International Railway Station, photo by eurostar.com/uk-en/travel-info/stations/ebbsfleet-international. Train, photo by mattbuck at File:Ebbsfleet International railway station MMB 08 395004.jpg. Exterior of Stonebridge Road ground, photo by Clem Rutter at File:NorthfleetStadium8833.JPG (commons.wikimedia.org). New Main Stand [photo from early 2017], photo by Alan Woods at footballgroundguide.com/ebbsfleet-united-stonebridge-road. Interior shot of round [from 2014], photo by Joseph Gibbons at gibbos92.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/ebbsfleet-united-fc-stonebridge-road. Screenshots of 2nd goal in final (Darren McQueen from an assist by Andy Drury, images from Highlights – Ebbsfleet United vs Chelmsford City – Play-Off Final (video uploaded by Clarets TV at youtube.com). Darren McQueen winning goal, photo from TSG Photoshelter at tgsphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/Ebbsfleet-United-vs-Chelmsford-City-13-05-17. Ebbsfleet captain Danny Kedwell and manager Daryl McMahon lift trophy, photo by Andy Payton at kentonline.co.uk.
___

-Thanks to the contributors at 2016–17 National League (en.wikipedia.org).
-Thanks to Nilfanion…Blank map of UK historic counties, by Nilfanion (using UK Ordnance Survey data), at File:United Kingdom police areas map.svg (commons.wikimedia.org). Blank relief map of Greater London, by Nilfanion (using UK Ordnance Survey data), at File:Greater London UK relief location map.jpg.
-Thanks to Soccerway for upper-division-Non-League attendance figures, uk.soccerway.com/national/england/conference-national.

July 21, 2016

2016–17 [Non-League] National League (aka the Conference) [5th division England], map w/ 15/16-crowds-&-finish./+ features on the 4 promoted clubs (Solihull Moors, North Ferriby United, Sutton United, Maidstone United).

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2016–17 [Non-League] National League (aka the Conference) [5th division England], map w/ 15/16-crowds-&-finish




By Bill Turianski on 21 July 2016; twitter.com/billsportsmaps.

Links…
-2016–17 National League [England 5th division football] (en.wikipedia.org).
-5th division/National League page at BBC.com…bbc.com/sport/football/national-league.
-NATIONAL LEAGUE [Summary] (soccerway.com).
-Club colours…thenationalleague.org.uk/clubcolours.

2016-17 will be the second season of the re-branded 5th division in England (and Wales).
Since last season, rather than being called the Conference, the 5th division began being called the National League (groan). The 5th tier of the English football pyramid was instituted in 1979-80 as the Alliance Premier League, and in 1986-87 the 5th division (by then called the Conference), was first granted automatic promotion placement into the Football League. A second promotion-spot was granted for 2002-03 (4-team-play-off-winner). The league-winner last season [2015-16] was Cheltenham Town, while Grimsby Town defeated Forest Green Rovers to win the play-off final at Wembley.

So, just two teams go up to the Football League each season, yet 4 teams go down to the 6th level each season. That helps to further establish the dreaded 5th division Bottleneck, with the now-perpetual cycle of former-Football-League-teams finding themselves down on their luck and stuck in Non-League football. Currently, teams in that category are…Tranmere Rovers, Wrexham, Lincoln City, York City, Torquay United, Southport, Barrow AFC, Macclesfield Town, Dagenham & Redbridge, as well as two re-formed clubs (Gateshead and Chester). There are simply so many lower-League-sized-clubs now filling up the 5th tier that ex-Football-League clubs can languish there in the 5th division for years (like Lincoln City). Although, in the last two seasons, Bristol Rovers and now Cheltenham Town have bucked that trend, and have bounced straight back to the Football League at the first try.

As for the two-league 6th division, that was instituted in 2004-05. The 6th division is when the English football pyramid splits into regional leagues – the National League North and the National League South. Two teams from the North and the South get promoted to the 5th division each season, and the four currently-promoted clubs are featured further below.

The map…
I am using the same template as last year, when I covered the Football League’s 3 leagues and the Premier League (the 2016-17 versions of which will be forthcoming, starting with the Premier League location-map-&-chart, which is to be posted on 31 July 2016).

Here, the location-map shows all 24 clubs in the 2016-17 National League, with their crests shown. The larger British-Isle-map (showing 20 of the teams in the 16/17 National League) is flanked by an inset-map of Greater London (showing 3 of the teams in the 16/17 National League – Bromley, Sutton United, and Dagenham & Redbridge); the Greater London map also includes the surrounding area of parts of the Home Counties around the capital as well (showing one of the teams in the 16/17 National League – Boreham Wood, who are from southern Hertfordshire just north of the North London boundary). The main map includes the traditional counties of England plus widely-used regional names. In the London map I have included notable places of interest (such as Parliament/Westminster, Hyde and Regent’s Parks, and Greenwich Mean Time’s location in SE London), and some infrastructure (Wembley Stadium, the Dartford Crossing), plus I have listed the Home Counties surrounding London, plus the four-closest prominent towns (Watford, Medway Towns incl Gillingham, Slough, Southend-on-Sea).

The chart…
The chart on the right-hand side of the map-page shows the 24 clubs’ attendances, stadium-capacities, and league-finishes for the last two seasons [2014-15 and 2015-16], plus last season’s Percent-Capacity figures as well as Numerical Change in average attendance (from the previous season). At the far right are two columns: one for seasons spent in the English 1st division, and one for English major titles (English 1st division title, FA Cup title, League Cup title)…but none of this current crop of 5th division clubs has ever done either of those things. In case you are wondering, there have been 5th division clubs with top-flight history and even with titles, and last season saw a former-First-Division-side – Grimsby Town – win promotion back to the Football League (Grimsby played 12 seasons in the 1st tier [albeit not since 1947-48].) The only clubs with titles who ever played in the 5th division are Oxford United and Luton Town, and both those are quasi-tin-pot League Cup titles (both won in the 1980s).

Best-drawing clubs in the 5th division, currently…
Currently [2016-17], no club in the 5th tier has ever reached the rarefied air of the first division, and if I were to guess, I would say Tranmere Rovers are the biggest club in the 5th division this season. Tranmere Rovers are from Birkenhead on the Wirral Peninsula (which is part of Merseyside and is located across the Mersey Estuary from Liverpool). Tranmere drew 5.4 K in their first season down in Non-League in 2015-16 (finishing in 6th, 2 points off the play-off places). But don’t forget about Wrexham, who, as an entirely-supporter-owned entity these days, are debt-free and coming off a +1.3 K per game attendance increase last season (when they finished 8th), drawing 4.6 K up there in North Wales. To round out the top-drawing current-5th-tier sides…The just-relegated-back York City drew 3.2 K last season in League Two at Bootham Crescent. The now-5th-tier-mainstays Lincoln City drew 2.5 K at Sincil Bank in Lincolnshire. And the back-to-back-promoted Maidstone United, of Kent, drew an impressive 2.1 K last season in their sweet new stadium (see it further below). Maidstone played to a very-impressive-for-Non-League 69.6 percent-capacity, and they were the 3rd-best-drawing 6th division side in 2015-16. Only FC United of Manchester and Stockport County drew higher in the 6th level last season.

Full-time-pro clubs versus part-time-pro clubs in the 5th division – the distinctions are blurring…
Most clubs in the 5th division these days are full-time-professional, and even the handful of current part-time professional clubs in the National League essentially behave as if they are full-time-pro. In the old days [pre-1986-87], the Non-League/Football League divide was also the divide between amateur and professional clubs. These days, the majority of 5th-division/Non-League clubs are full-time professional. But it is rather hard defining who is fully pro and who is not. So to get to the bottom of this, I made contact with Richard Joyce, who is Press Officer at Forest Green Rovers. I had remembered that on his old FGR-based podcasts, he had described which Conference teams were still part-time [back in 2010-11].

Richard Joyce explained to me that in the 5th division now [circa 2014 or so], the lines between full-time-pro clubs and part-time-pro clubs have become blurred…”On the topic of clubs still operating as semi-professional sides – there are still quite a few. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which ones are because some train slightly more than your traditional part-time side in an attempt to get as many hours on the training field as possible. For example Boreham Wood train three times a week and in the mornings – which is just one less training session than FGR. So although that may mean they are close to being ‘part time’ they more or less have a full time schedule.
But there are still definite proper ‘semi-pro’ clubs such as Braintree Town, Bromley and North Ferriby United. Some other semi-pro clubs include Sutton, Maidstone, Solihull Moors and Woking, however some of those sides can sometimes train a lot more than you would associate with an ‘old school’ part-time team. They also sign a lot of full time players, who although are playing for a part-time club, still train and behave like they are full time professionals. With so many talented players available and unable to secure a move to a full-time outfit, they choose to join a part-time team which means they can still play at a good level in the National League. It depends financially where clubs position themselves but if they can work as many hours on the training field as possible to enhance their chances on matchdays then it seems like a good move to make”…
(Quote by Richard D Joyce, Press Officer at Forest Green Rovers FC).

    Clubs promoted from National League North & promoted from National League South, for 2016-17…
    (Solihull Moors, North Ferriby United, Sutton United, Maidstone United).

Promoted clubs from National League North, for 2016-17…
Solihull Moors FC. (Est 2007, via merger of Moor Green FC [6th-level-side] and Solihull Borough FC [8th-level-side].) Solihull, West Midlands (population 206,000/2011 figure). Solihull is 14.5 km (8 mi) E of Birmimgham, and Solihull is 24 km (15 mi) W of Coventry. Colours: Blue & Yellow [hoops]/ red-black-white [hoops] on the road. Nickname: the Moors. Manager: Marcus Bignot. Here is a recent article about Marcus Bignot…Marcus Bignot’s journey: From rejection at Birmingham to Solihull, via Crewe (by Ged Scott on 6 July 2016 at bbc.co.uk/sport).

This is the highest-league placement for the nine-year-old club. As Moor Green FC, pre-merger, the club was a charter member of the Conference North in 2004-05. Before and after the merger (in 2007), Moor Green/Solihull Moors were a mid-to-lower-table 6th tier side that never really threatened to win promotion, and drew less than 300 per game.

By 2014-15, when they finished 12th, Solihull Moors’ crowds had improved by about a couple-hundred-per-game and they were averaging 463. Then last season [2015-16], the Moors came out of nowhere to win the league by 9 points, increasing their average gate again by about a couple-hundred-per-game – to 671 per game, at their 3-K-capacity Damson Park located about a mile north of Solihull town centre. Here’s an article on the Moors’ 2016 promotion to the 5th level…Solihull Moors confirmed as National League North champions (thenonleaguefootballpaper.com).

As you can see below, Solihull Moors had a pretty nondescript crest prior to 2015 (it looked like lame and ugly clip-art, in a dismal colour-scheme of greenish-gold-and-black). But now Solihull Moors new crest rightfully incorporates – within a shield-device – design elements from the crests of the original two clubs which went on to comprise the new club. Plus the Moors no longer play in drab home whites with black pants, but rather in bold hoops. Solihull Moors are located somewhat close to central Birmingham, and are located about a half-mile from Birmingham International Airport (the flight tower for the airport is visible from the stands at Damson Park {see it here}), and, as it says in the Football Ground Guide website, ‘The ground is situated very close to Birmingham Airport, so you are ‘treated’ to a procession of planes taking off throughout the afternoon.’). There is a power-vacuum in Birmingham/West-Midlands-football these days (Aston Villa has imploded, Birmingham City are still going nowhere, and West Bromwich are surviving in the top flight – but just barely). So Solihull Moors could benefit from this, and the club could see a continued increase in attendance, and maybe the Moors will start to pick up some disaffected fans of the nearby and just-relegated Aston Villa.
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Photo credits above – Shots of main stand, 1st photo by solihullmoors.com.
2nd photo with main stand filled, photo by richardl1969 at stadiumsandcities.wordpress.com. Photo of Moors fans, photo by solihullmoorsfc.co.uk/news/[tickets]

North Ferriby United AFC. (Est. 1934.) North Ferriby, East Riding of Yorkshire (which is part of Greater Hull [population 433,000/2011 figure]). North Ferriby is 14 km (9 mi) W of Kingston-upon-Hull. Colours: Green & White. Nickname: the Villagers. Manager: Steve Housham.

Here is an excellent and informative article on NFUFC (from the Guardian, of course)…How North Ferriby’s village football team made the jump to the National League (by Richard Foster on 15 July 2016 at theguardian.com/football).

Promoted as play-off winners of National League North (North Ferriby Utd 2-1 Fylde). This is the highest-league placement for the 83-year-old club. In late 2011, North Ferriby were a relegation-threatened 7th division side. A year-and-a-half later (in May 2013), the Villagers had reversed course and won promotion to the 6th division. Now, after just 3 seasons in the 6th tier, Norh Ferriby continue their climb up the pyramid and will now make their 5th division debut for 2016-17. But North Ferriby United will face an uphill battle, as one of the smallest clubs in the 5th tier this season.

The Villagers play at the tiny 2.7-K-capacity Grange Lane, and drew only 446 per game in 2015-16. But that crowd-size more than tripled for their play-off final win over Fylde, when they drew 1.8 K and won it late in extra-time, with the winning goal in the 95th minute by Danny Hone {see fuzzy screenshot below}. Here is an article from the Hull Daily Mail….Brilliant North Ferriby United seal promotion to National League (on 14 May 2016 by Charlie Mullan at hulldailymail.co.uk).
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Photo credits above –
footballgroundguide.com. unattributed at footballtripper.com. Screenshot of promotion-winning-goal-celebration, from video uploaded by North Ferriby at youtube.com. North Ferriby squad celebrates their promotion, photo by hulldailymail.co.uk.

Promoted clubs from National League South, for 2016-17…
Sutton United. (Est. 1898.) Sutton are from the southern reaches of Greater London near the boundary with Surrey, and Sutton is about 17 km (10 mi) SW of central London. Colours: Amber & Chocolate. Manager: Paul Doswell.

Sutton Utd spent 6 seasons in the Conference – 5 seasons from 1986-1991, as well as the 1999-2000 season. And during that first spell in the 5th division in the late Eighties, Sutton had their historic giant-killing of 1st-division side Coventry City, in the 1988-89 FA Cup 3rd Round. {See this article I wrote 4 years ago on Sutton United’s legendary Cup-upset, 2011-12 FA Cup, Second Round Proper./ + Sutton United’s FA Cup Giant Killing – January, 1989 – Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City.}

Sutton United now return to the 5th tier after a 16-year absence. Last season, the U’s won the National League South on the second-to-last game of the season, on 23rd April 2016, when they beat Chelmsford City 2-0 in front of a solid 1.5 K at Borough Sports Park (aka Gander Green Lane). {See this article…Sutton United clinch promotion to the National League (bbc.co.uk/football).}

Sutton United these days average 1.0 K and still play at their Gander Green Lane (which opened in 1912 as a racing track). The pitch is now 3G there – that playing surface was installed in the summer of 2015. Like Maidstone United (see the Maidstone section further below), Sutton will be in promotion-limbo until 3G pitches are allowed in the Football League.
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Photo and Image credits above – Aerial shot of Gander Greeen Lane, photo by suttonunited.net/info_stadium. View of Main Stand at Gander Green, photo unattributed at nescot.ac.uk/news. Standing terrace at Gander Green lane, photo by BeautifulGame15 at backpagefootball.com/400-sutton-united-fc-vs-dartford-fc-part-two. Screenshot of Sutton fans applauding the Sutton squad (and vice-versa) after Sutton clinched the 2016 National League South title, image from a youtube video uploaded by Clarets TV at youtube.com.

Maidstone United (II) (Est. 1992 as Maidstone Invicta, a Phoenix-club of Maidstone United FC (1897)./ Changed name to Maidstone United (II) in 1995.) Maidstone is in Kent, about 64 km (40 mi) SE of central London, by road [or 52 km/33 mi from London as the crow flies]. Nickname: the Stones. Colours: Amber & Black. Manager: Jay Saunders.

Maidstone United have now achieved back-to-back promotions. Maidstone were promoted as play-off winners of the 2016-17 National League South. The re-emergence of Maidstone United is a great story – they had the 3rd-highest crowd size in the 6th tier last season (only FC United of Manchester and Stockport County drew higher in the 6th division in 2015-16). On 14 May 2016, 17 miles NE of Maidstone, in Northfleet, Kent, before 3.8 K at Ebbsfleet United’s Stonebridge Road, Maidstone United won promotion to the 5th tier in a dramatic play-off final aet shootout win, beating their nearby rivals by the score of 2-2/4-3 on penalties. Maidstone FW Dimebe Dumaka had scored at the last gasp in added time, to even it up in the 121st minute. Then in the penalty shoot-out, Alex Flisher, Jack Paxman, Bobby-Joe Taylor and Dan Sweeney scored from the spot, while Maidstone GK/captain Lee Worgan made 2 penalty-saves, the latter of which was off of Ebbsfleet-brace-scorer Danny Kedwell…and the Stones were promoted. Here is an article…Ebbsfleet United 2 Maidstone United 2 match report (aet, Stones win 4-3 on penalties) (from 14 May 2016, by Chris Tucker at kentonline.co.uk).

Maidstone United’s new, compact (3.0 K-capacity), attractive, and very functional Gallagher Stadium (which opened in 2012), has helped swell crowds and helped propel Maidstone back up the pyramid. The original Maidstone United, which was wound up in 1992, were a charter-member of the 5th division in 1979, and went on to spend 3 seasons in the 4th division of the Football League (from 1989-1992). In 1989-90 the original Maidstone United (I) had their highest league-placement when they finished in 5th place in the 4th division and drew a peak 2.4 K per game. But 2 seasons later, the first version of Maidstone Utd had overspent themselves into oblivion. So Maidstone United (I) were wound up, and a re-formed club with a nucleus of the youth side was established that same year (1992). Twenty four years later [2015-16], the second iteration of Maidstone United (II) drew a healthy 2.1 K – in the 6th division – en route to promotion, so you could say that Maidstone United are back.

The only problem with Maidstone’s ascent is that they play on a 3G pitch, and the Football League still bans that, so until the rules change, Maidstone United are in a neutral mode with respect to another promotion push. Maidstone United’s Gallagher Stadium is the first purpose-built football stadium in Britain that utilizes a 3G pitch in its business model. See this, at the Wikipedia page for the Gallagher Stadium, where it says that…”Rather than the traditional choice of grass, Maidstone were the first English team to build a stadium with third generation artificial turf”…”The reasons for going with the synthetic turf were threefold, the first being to eliminate match postponements caused by waterlogging and freezing conditions, the second so that the pitch can be hired out, bringing in vital funds (around £120,000 to £150,000 profit per year), and thirdly so that the stadium can be a hub for all the club’s youth and community teams.”…”A major downside of the 3G pitch is that so far the club has only gained permission to use the pitch in the Football Conference [the National League/5th division].”…{excerpts from Gallagher_Stadium/3G Artificial Pitch (en.wikipedia.org)}.
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Photo and Image credits above -
Aerial shot of stadium, photo by Gallagher Group at gallagher-group.co.uk/case-studies/maidstone-united-fcs-new-stadium. Interior shot from terrace behind goal, photo by Steve McCaskill at pixelsport.co.uk/2012/10/23/non-league-day-maidstone-united-5-0-dulwich-hamlet. Shot of a full-capacity main stand during a Maidstone game, photo by kentnews.co.uk/sport. Close-up shot of 3G pitch with main stand in background, photo by maidstoneunited.co.uk. Shot of captain Worgan lifting trophy with squad celebrating promotion, photo by Gary Browne at kentonline.co.uk.

___
-Thanks to the contributors at 2016–17 National League (en.wikipedia.org).
-Thanks to Nilfanion…Blank relief map of Greater London, by Nilfanion (using UK Ordnance Survey data), at File:Greater London UK relief location map.jpg.
-Thanks to Soccerway for upper-divisions Non-League attendance figures, uk.soccerway.com/national/england/conference-national.
-Thanks to the excellent site known as Non-League Matters, for lower-division Non-League attendance figures, nonleaguematters.co.uk.

Special Thanks to Richard Joyce at Forest Green Rovers official site.

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