The North East can proudly bolster having seven of the last eight FA Vase winning sides coming from the region.
However, among this success many clubs are struggling to survive.
Last week, Northern League side Hebburn Town released a statement begging for support to save their beloved club.
With rising costs, diminishing spectators and limited funds, many non-league Football clubs are finding it extremely difficult to survive. So, Is Grassroots Football slowly dying?
Hebburn Town, also known as ‘The Hornets’, released a heartfelt statement via their website in which they admitted that they are currently playing to falling gates and have barely enough money to survive.
In the club’s statement they issued a wake-up message to the people of Hebburn.
The statement said:“If you want to help us keep the club alive, now is the time to act.”
The news of Hebburn Town’s struggle comes just weeks after fellow Northern League club, Norton and Stockton Ancients announced their withdrawal from the league with immediate effect.
The club said it had become no longer viable to carry on and that the cost of running the team was not affordable due to diminishing spectators and limited funds.
Having been founded in 1889, the Northern League is the oldest surviving league in the world after the Football League.
If ‘The Hornets’ were to follow the Ancients and kick their final ball, could that open the door to more clubs bowing out?
Chairman of fellow Northern League Football Club Whickham, Paul Taylor said: “We find it difficult to keep the club running throughout every season.”
“We are fortunate that we have a fantastic committee that supports the overall running of the club.
“We also have several sponsorship deals with businesses and their money is invaluable to our existence.”
“To keep our heads above the water, we always look at ways to generate money.
“Events including a booze cruise and talk- ins with former footballers have been successful in raising money for the club.
“Everyone’s help is vital.
“We know roughly what income is needed to keep us going but you can never plan for the unexpected.
“Things crop up and it means additional money must be raised.
“This could be costs such as be good cup runs, buses and general repairs to the ground.
“You can’t run week to week and expect to be successful.
“We rely on all income. Every penny counts, especially in these days.
“At the start of the season, the money is generated from the booze cruise we run every July and also sponsors.
“We then get income from the advertising boards from around the ground.
“Throughout the season we also have the income from our home games, gate receipts, raffles, programmes, and the café.
“If we didn’t have volunteers within the club or league, we all wouldn’t have a club or league, it’s as simple as that.”
Remarkably, when Hebburn played Shields away from home three seasons ago, the Town came out victorious, winning 1-0 with ‘The Hornets’ having as many fans in the crowd as Shields.
Since then, the teams have clearly gone in different directions.
Shields went on to sign former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder Julio Arca.
‘The Mariners’ as they are also known as, went on to win Division Two last season and are currently competing at the top of Division One with their local rivals North Shields.
They are now roared on by a capacity crowd of over 1,100 at many home games – an astonishing figure for ninth-tier clashes.
Shields also have an FA Vase Semi-Final to look forward to against Coleshill Town in the coming weeks, with the winner heading to the home of English Football – Wembley.
In spite of the incredible achievements and heights ‘The Mariners’ are reaching, the grass is not as green for many other teams.
Several fellow Northern League sides including Hebburn Town are battling a tough challenge to guarantee literal survival.
A just giving page has been set up by ‘Hornets’ supporter Mick Laffey in the hopes that the page will raise money to aid the push for survival of the club. A target of £5,000 has been set.
The North-East lives and breathes Football.
One thing that is for sure is that the clubs in our region will not go down without a passionate, devoted, and vigorous fight!