Following another successful event last year, Non-League Day (NLD) will return for a seventh consecutive season on 3rd September 2016.
Choosing the date of NLD is probably the hardest thing we have to do each year and we take time to try and make the best decision.
To maximise publicity and the amount of extra people we can appeal to, the main criteria are:
• that NLD must happen on an international break so we are not competing with the Premier League and Championship
• must happen on an international break on which England are not playing on the Saturday
We also have to consider the FA fixture list and this has thrown up a number of challenges which has made our selection even tougher than normal.
There are four international breaks during the 2016/17 season all of which offer significant advantages and disadvantages.
The first three in September, October and November all coincide with FA competitions such as the Cup, Trophy and Vase. As a result of the FA’s ‘All Pay’ rules for these games, clubs find it much harder to offer discounted admission (although it is not impossible) and prefer it if NLD does not fall on such days.
The October break also has a direct clash with one of England’s World Cup qualifiers at Wembley making it a non-starter almost immediately.
The fourth international break is scheduled for the end of March 2017.
On this date there is no clash with such competitions but it is only a few weeks before Non-League Finals Day at Wembley.Given that we are trying to build two distinctive events which promote the non-league game, we deemed them to be far too close together and also had to rule this option out.
It then came down to September and November. The former coincides with a round of the FA Cup while the latter sees matches in the FA Vase and FA Trophy so on both dates 200 or so clubs are affected.
With the weather potentially a lot worse in mid-November than early September and the FA Cup being a highly marketable attraction to neutrals, we decided to go with that.
The September date also has the added bonus of not coinciding with international matches for any of the home nations which frees up more clubs and fans in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to also take part if they wish.
We are well aware that this decision won’t please everyone but we hope you can understand why we made it and how difficult it can be. Non-League Day remains a totally volunteer-run initiative.