First things first, non league football in East Berkshire is not the Premier League, it’s not the World Cup and 99% of people involved in it are volunteers to loosely paraphrase a well known sign at kids football matches.
So it’s disappointing and frankly ridiculous to hear some of the comments and abuse aimed at players and supporters over the weekend.
Anyone who knows me will be aware I was involved at Bracknell Town for a long time, but since starting FootballinBracknell with Darrell I am much more interested in the state and survival of the local game.
It is hard enough trying to do all the wonderful things our local clubs are doing at the moment without engaging in petty rivalries.
Players at this level move back and forth between clubs ALL the time.
Callum Whitty has off the top of my head played for Bracknell on three seperate occasions and Binfield twice.
Adam Cornell and Nick Bateman have played for Binfield, Bracknell and Wokingham and Ben Knight has played for Ascot twice and Bracknell twice.
There are doubtless 100s more examples but I sincerely doubt any of these players have suffered abuse because of where they choose to spend their free time.
The most popular region
Football in East Berkshire is easily the most popular region within the Hellenic League footprint when you look at both attendances and the viewing statistics generated by this website.
The only clubs getting triple figure crowds are Ascot, Bracknell and Binfield and these push 250 when they play each other.
That’s not driven by any sort of intense historical rivalry, Binfield and Bracknell have only been in the same division for six of the past seven seasons and until the summer of 2007 Ascot United were a Reading League side.
It’s driven by three (four when Wokingham are in the Premier) good clubs with decent facilities – and better to come – a short distance from each other competing at a high level of non-league football.
— Alex Tilbury (@AlexTilbury) May 30, 2014
One of the best games I’ve seen was the FA Cup game between Bracknell Town and Binfield in 2012. There were 100s of people at Larges Lane – not bad considering the Robins had been relegated to Division 1 East in the summer. This attendance was driven not by a rivalry, but two well supported clubs in an important match with some real characters in the dug outs.
As far as I was concerned, it was an excellent spectacle without a hint of malice.
So why now are we seeing reports of verbal abuse at players and their families? Can’t we all just grow up a little bit?
Main image: A large crowd watches Bracknell Town take on Wokingham & Emmbrook by Neil Graham.