Are professional clubs at a disadvantage in the National League?

There are a handful of Football League quality players in the lower leagues who are playing part time and have their own business or job on the side.

Because their profession outside the game it is not financially viable for them to quit their day job and join a professional team who require full time commitment.

When you see a player step up to the Football League it is normally to a League One or Championship team. This is likely because these clubs will pay the wages required to be a professional footballer in this day and age.

leon lobjoit
Leon Lobjoit joined EFL League One team Northampton Town from tenth tier Buckingham Town last season.

Another reason is the fact that footballers careers are so short that they need a back up job for when they leave the professional game, so a lot of the talented players who could be playing higher up are playing in part time leagues.

New Blyth Spartans signing Dale Hopson is an example, he recently signed from Northern Premier League side Whitby Town where he scored 30 goals from midfield in the seventh tier.

Speaking to Hopson he tells me:

“With my work as a school teacher/coach it’s got to be a good offer from a pro team to get me to quit my job.

For me playing for Blyth fits my schedule better being the fact they are only part time.”

He was linked with Hartlepool United amongst others but opted for semi-professional football instead.

This suggests that professional teams in these regional divisions and even in the National League are at a disadvantage in terms of signing talented players.

You’d think that the appeal to play for a pro club, such as say York City, would tempt the players. But in reality a professional team like York will be looking at the players dropping down leagues who are desperate to cling on to their ‘professional footballer’ status.

Upon leaving Cardiff for York City, new signing Theo Wharton told the club’s media:


“Yeah [professional status] was a big thing to be honest. I wanted to keep that routine of training everyday and waking up going to work”

The assumption is that full time teams have the infrastructure as a business to operate more effectively and have the resources to develop these players further with extra training sessions.

My Say

In my opinion I think there are a lot of better players playing in non-league than some playing in the EFL. And personally I think it’s all down to a players pedigree.

A professional club will look to the academies of top teams to sign their recently released academy players instead of turning to non-league where there is arguably more talent but less reputation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so please tweet me your opinions or comment down below! 🙂

Header photo by: Bill Broadley

Published by Dan Simmonite

Aspiring sport media professional currently working with Northumberland FA. Also write for the grassroots section of the Newcastle Chronicle.

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