My first choice was Brentford v Shrewsbury. I live in Fulham, so it’s a local ground, and my best friend is a season ticket holder. But it turned out that they had some special promotion on and the home end was sold out, so that wasn’t an option. “Why don’t you go and watch an FA Cup tie?” he said.
I’d already had the same idea. A quick scan of the fixtures revealed that my best bet was Barnet v Concord Rangers. Okay, that sounded promising. I went onto the Barnet website to find out more about their new ground. Then I saw the ticket prices: £24 for a seat, £16 for the terraces.
Are you kidding me? I watched the superb Watford-Norwich League Cup tie for 15 quid a few weeks ago. Why would I pay more than that for an FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie between two non-league teams? I thought about it a bit longer: it was going to take me a minimum of an hour to get there, whether I drove or took public transport, and the weather was looking iffy. In the end, I just couldn’t be bothered. If it had been a tenner to get in, I probably would have.
So, after a couple of hours spent working in the garden, I sat down to watch the end of Sky Soccer Saturday. Even though I’d turned down the chance to go, I was still curious to know how the Barnet game had turned out. Sky Sports had featured a few of the FA Cup ties on their vidiprinter (or whatever the digital equivalent is called), but not that one. I waited until the classified scores were in, but no mention of the FA Cup, so I switched over to BBC1, who are usually a few minutes behind. No classified FA Cup scores there either, but the presenter made a point of saying that they could be found on the BBC Sport website.
So I checked the BBC Sport app on my iPhone: the fixtures were there all right, but no scores. This was at 5.10 or so. Okay, I thought, it’s probably just that they don’t update the app as a priority. An hour or so later, I looked on my computer - with the same result. Well after 6 o’clock, it was still impossible to find out a single result from the FA Cup 4th qualifying round from the BBC. (For the record, the Real FA Cup website was no better.)
So here’s the thing: I’m a Watford fan through and through, and 95% of all the football matches I’ve ever watched have featured the Golden Boys. But every now and then I fancy a change of scene, and I’m open to watching non-league football. (I’ve seen plenty of non-league games, mostly at Kingstonian with a friend who used to support them.) But if it’s going to cost the same as a league game, I’m not going to bother. And if the media can’t be arsed to update the scores from the biggest competition non-league teams feature in, it’s hardly going to encourage other neutrals to take an interest, either. I’m not impressed, frankly.
*Fun Prevention Officer, aka wife