Hampton and Richmond FC building on non-league football’s growth

Hampton and Richmond FC, who play in the National League South, the sixth tier of English football, are looking to build on the recent growth of non-league football.

During the pandemic, non-league crowds swelled as fans sought out the accessibility of their local club to satisfy their love for the sport.

However, even as Covid restrictions loosen, Hampton and Richmond have continued to see good attendances at the Beveree Stadium, suggesting that non-leagues’ ‘post-lockdown renaissance’ may well endure.

Seb White, Media Director at Hampton & Richmond said: “We definitely have had more fans at certain games and have been pleasantly surprised by how many people have come in. 

“After the pandemic, I think, in the same way people went to the local shops or the local bakery, people have looked a bit inwards and realised that there’s a football club down the road.”

FIGHTING HARD: Hampton and Richmond, nicknamed the Beavers, playing against Oxford City on 5 February

Another key factor in Hampton and Richmond’s growing support is the club’s accessibility. 

White noted the welcoming atmosphere and good value offered at the Beveree, as well as the club’s decision to make streaming free so fans who could not make the game could still follow along.

“The community side is more apparent than ever, especially with social media,” he said.

VIRAL: For many non-league clubs, social media is crucial in expanding their outreach.

For many, the personable nature of non-league football is a welcome contrast to the upper levels of the English football pyramid. 

In particular, non-league football saw a spike in popularity following the outpouring of criticism for the short-lived European Super League.

Hampton and Richmond are a volunteer-run club, with around 20-25 regulars working on match days to deliver a positive experience for fans.

One of these volunteers is Ben Harrison-Hyde, 21, who saw his first game at the Beveree when he was six.

He has since worked on the club’s social media and as a photographer before joining their media team.

He said: “You see faces you recognise every single time you come here – it is definitely a family club.”

However, Harrison-Hyde added that the success of non-league is also due to the increased quality of football.

He referred to how the National League has shifted from semi-professional to completely professional outside of a few clubs.

White supports this improvement in quality at the non-league level.

“When people go to non-league football now, they realise it isn’t 22 blokes hungover from the night before. It’s good quality football, played by athletes who look after themselves,” he said.

Given the narrowing gulf in quality between League Two and the National League, there have been calls to add another promotion place to the EFL (English Football League).

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: Dean Inman wheels away in celebration after scoring in Hampton and Richmond’s 4-0 victory over Bath City

Following these developments in non-league football, White affirmed that Hampton and Richmond are built on firmer foundations than in the past.

He added that criticism towards the upper tiers of English football is not going away any time soon and that people will continue to seek out non-league football as a result.

The challenge now is to highlight that there is high-level football being played in Richmond, traditionally seen as a Rugby-focused borough.

Gill Wilson, one of the directors of Hampton and Richmond’s non-profit supporters trust, The Beavers Trust, said that a key part of her role was bringing greater visibility to the club within the community.

Wilson said: “We have a profile at local community events and we do our best to represent ourselves as a friendly welcoming place.

“We’re always around on match days, so if anyone’s interested in what we do, they should come down to the ground and see us in the trust hut.”

Showing its position in the community, The Beavers Trust has held regular food bank collections, even when home matches were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Image Credits: Thomas Lang, Hampton & Richmond Borough FC

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