Welcome to another intriguing matchwithin The National League.
This weekend, The National League
celebrates its 40th anniversary, since the first fixtures took place in thethen Alliance Premier League.
An allocation of 20 Clubs made upthe fifth tier, with Altrincham claiming the title in the inaugural season.
The Noel Kelly trophy - named after the former Nuneaton Borough Chairman - remained at Moss Lane at the end of the first two campaigns.
The pyramid-shaped trophy represented
a transition to the structure of Non-League football, which has been integralin shaping the game in this country.
With automatic promotion introduced
from 1987, even the smallest clubs could dream of a meteoric rise into theFootball League and beyond.
Football power-brokers, Jim Thompson
and Noel White, who sadly passed away recently, were just two of a number of
key people who influenced this ground-breaking change - and many others, like
the influential Bill King, Peter Hunter and current President Brian Lee, have
tirelessly steered the League through its many adventures over the past fourdecades.
The addition of the play-offs in
2003, then the North and South divisions a year later, has added a newdimension to the competition and created more wonderful memories.
Not only has the league had three
titles, with the Football Conference in use for nearly 30 years, there has also
been a total of six title sponsors. All of which have helped create an identityfor the competition, as we know it today.
From a football perspective, there
has been a huge number of significant moments throughout The National League'shistory.
Wealdstone became the first club to
win the “Non-League double” of league title and FA Trophy success back in 1985.
Colchester United matched this achievement in 1992, then Martin O'Neill'sWycombe Wanderers the following season.
Many managers and players have gone
onto have hugely successful careers in the game. Similar to O'Neill, the likes
of Neil Warnock, Jamie Vardy and Joe Hart have made their mark at the toplevel.
And who can forget the more recent
FA Cup runs of Lincoln City and Sutton United just over two years ago? Managers
Danny Cowley and Paul Doswell performed heroics with their respective sides, showcasingtheir efforts in front of global audiences.
Our current commercial partnerships
with Vanarama, LV Bet and BT Sport are flourishing, and the estimated moneygenerated by the season-long competition is now at over £80 million.
From small acorns, The National
League has become a well-established part of English football - and its profile
is growing season-by-season. Extensive live matchday TV coverage on BT Sport and
a greater awareness of our three divisions across the breadth of bothtraditional and modern media continues to grow.
Last season, over two million
spectators attended our matches. It's incredibly encouraging to see so many
people coming through the turnstiles at our Football Clubs, the heartbeats oftheir communities. The figure is substantially larger than a decade ago.
Most importantly, our competition
remains friendly, welcoming and open to all. It is a National League but withwonderful local values.
Happy Birthday! And here's to the next forty years.