Saturday, 13 Jul 2024

From Non League to The Premier League: My Journey as a Football Volunteer

Have you ever dreamed of working in the football industry? Many aspiring individuals see the Premier League as the ultimate destination. And why not? The allure of being part of the top level of the game, the excitement of witnessing historical moments, and the passionate atmosphere are undeniably captivating. However, I can confidently say that there is so much to gain from working at the non-league level, where I began my journey in football.

Volunteering at your local Football club

I started my “career” in football through volunteer work at Hitchin Town Football Club, located in the charming town of Hitchin in North Hertfordshire. While I was an administrator in the Robotics Industry at the time, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to be part of the football world. Initially, I provided match previews and reports for the club’s website, along with a regular column in the matchday program. Little did I know that this would open doors to even greater opportunities.

Shortly after finding my footing as a volunteer, I was asked to write match reports for the Non-League Paper (NLP) – an incredible opportunity that I wholeheartedly embraced. It was an intense experience, watching the games with utmost focus to ensure accuracy for the NLP readers. We often take for granted the quick access to statistics and match details provided by professional technology. But at the non-league level, individuals are responsible for meticulously recording and reporting such information. I vividly remember the pressure of being given the “Star Game,” where I had to note down additional statistics like corners and throw-ins. It was a remarkable learning experience, facing the challenge of delivering accurate and detailed information relied upon by passionate supporters.

Hitchin Town FC Matchday

During that particular “Star Game,” the weather was harsh, rain was pouring, and the usual table I used was occupied by the visiting team’s commentary team. I found myself balancing various papers across multiple seats and rushing onto the pitch post-match to interview the opposing team’s manager, who happened to be their goalkeeper as well. Within a short span of time, I had progressed from writing for fun to contributing to match previews, writing two styles of match reports, and interviewing managers and players in non-league football.

From Non-League Volunteer to Full-time in The Premier League

My story is not unique. A friend and former colleague of mine also started writing match reports for the NLP before securing a full-time position as a Media Assistant at a League Two club. Through hard work and two promotions, he eventually transitioned to the media team at a Premier League club. The possibilities are endless, with various roles available for those willing to invest their time and effort.

While you may not have the opportunity to work in areas like Sports Science or Player Care at the non-league level, there are still invaluable insights and experiences to be gained. Roles such as Club Secretary, Administration, Sponsorship, and Ticket Sales exist at all levels of the game. If your dream is to pursue a career in any of these areas, consider reaching out to your local non-league club. They may require volunteers or offer work experiences, providing an opportunity for you to contribute and learn. Remember, lending a helping hand can be just as rewarding for them as it is for you. If given the chance, embrace it wholeheartedly.

I am forever grateful to Hitchin Town FC for introducing me to non-league football and the opportunities it brought. It paved the way for my full-time position at a Premier League club, without any intermediate football experience. The confidence, knowledge, and work ethic I gained as a volunteer in non-league football played a crucial role in both applying for and successfully securing that position. Too often, we talk ourselves out of applying for opportunities, assuming we won’t be chosen. Always remember, it is worth trying.

Volunteer – develop your local club and most importantly, yourself!

To all those interested in a career in football, I urge you to look into the non-league club within your local community or nearby areas. What’s the worst that could happen? You get to meet wonderful people who possess a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the game. And at the best-case scenario? You’ll encounter rewarding opportunities that not only enhance your career prospects but also contribute to the survival of a club that relies on volunteers and supporters. If you can’t offer your services for free, consider attending matches and reading match reports to deepen your understanding of the game.

I am now a season ticket holder at Hitchin Town FC, once again assisting on a volunteer basis. Despite having experience at higher levels of the football pyramid, I continue to learn from the club where it all began for me.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are non-league football clubs a valuable starting point for a career in football?

Absolutely! Non-league football clubs offer incredible opportunities to gain valuable experience, insights, and skills that can propel your career in the football industry.

2. What roles can I expect to find at non-league clubs?

While roles like Sports Science and Player Care may be limited, non-league clubs offer openings in administration, sponsorship, ticket sales, and more. These roles provide essential foundations for a career in football.

3. How can volunteering benefit both myself and the club?

Volunteering allows you to develop your skills, expand your network, and gain practical experience. Simultaneously, you contribute to the growth and development of the club, supporting its operations and sustainability.

Conclusion

Working as a volunteer in non-league football can be a stepping stone to achieving your dreams in the football industry. The experiences and lessons learned at this level can shape and enhance your career, while also making a meaningful contribution to the community. So, whether you aspire to reach the Premier League or simply want to be part of the beautiful game, consider the invaluable opportunities that non-league football clubs can offer.

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