Sunday, February 13, 2011

Part the VIII: Where Nick goes to a British Football Match.

Spent part of the later afternoon today at a match of the local Bath City Football Club at their home pitch of Twerton Park in nearby Twerton.  The team plays in the Blue Square Bet Premier League which is the highest level of non-league football.  Now I can hear your next question:  "But Nick, what is non-league football?"  Well fear not as I have included this handy chart to explain it to you.
Make sense?  Remember that in the English system the top few and bottom few teams can be promoted and demoted to higher and lower leagues respectively.  Basically, Bath City is one step away from promotion to "The League".  That would then only put them 3 steps from the Premier League and teams like Chelsea and Man U. 
As an interesting sidenote in the team's history, during World War Two, the team was moved up to play in the  wartime temporary Division 2 Northern league.  They won this league and won games against teams like Man U, Liverpool and Everton.  They remain the only semi-pro club to ever win a Football League Trophy. 

So non-league is basically like semi-pro football.  Like the minor league baseball teams of the 1940s and 50s, the club only pays the players so much.  They then help the players to find jobs throughout town.  For example, one Bath City F.C. forward spends his off-time making chocolates for a local sweet shop.  These are guys who play football because they love the game and for the first time ever are actually getting a little bit of money for doing it.  The team's boss, Adie Britton, actually draws no salary from the team.  He makes his money as a businessman outside of the team.  Any work done in league is totally voluntary.  This makes him the only volunteer manager in the league and, as far as research shows, in all of English Football.

Now a bit about the stadium.  Twerton Park was built in 1909 by hand when men literally dug and leveled part of a hillside to create a football pitch.  It became the home of Bath City in the 30s.  It also served as home to the Bristol Rovers side for a while when they experienced financial problems from 1986-1996.  It can hold up to 8,000 people although the record is over 18,000.  Of the listed capacity of 8,000, only 1,006 of that is seating.  The other seven thousand is traditional standing terrace making this one of the last of the great English Terraced Stadiums.  There are no scoreboards or clocks.  Between songs and chants, the men on the terrace smoke, talk politics, and generally just shoot the bull.  There is a wonderful, old-timey feel to a day at Twerton Park.

Bladud the Pig, the mascot of Bath City F.C.

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