Alex Brooker celebrates power of non-league football at York City | OneFootball

Alex Brooker celebrates power of non-league football at York City | OneFootball

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·26 March 2022

Alex Brooker celebrates power of non-league football at York City

Article image:Alex Brooker celebrates power of non-league football at York City

Alex Brooker is football romantic.

And by that I mean he took a girl on a first date to Ashford Town FC when he was 14.

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The Last Leg co-host rekindled his love with non-league football on Tuesday with a trip to National League North side York City to check out the work that the York City Foundation do for the local community.

Brooker met with three groups run by the York City Foundation; Walking Football, Boot the Blues - a group that use a casual kickabout as a vehicle to discuss mental health - and Sporting Memories - a group that aims to tackle dementia, depression and loneliness through the power of reminiscing about sport.

"It does sound cliche but I’ve sat here earlier and thought it does go beyond football," Brooker told 90min. "It goes beyond just what goes on on the pitch. These clubs are so vital to the communities that are around them. It’s been really lovely to be here because I’m well aware I’m an Arsenal fan, it’s all the glitz and glamour with the Premier League. It’s a different world in non-league, but at the same time shows what football really is about."

Non-league clubs were hit hard financially during the pandemic due to their reliance on gate money, with the National Lottery providing £12.5m worth of support to help protect teams at that level of the football pyramid.

In the face of the uncertainty that Covid threw up, the York City Foundation adapted to continue delivering their services during lockdown - from Zoom quizzes to organising virtual physio sessions for members of the walking football team. Given these groups aim to tackle isolation and loneliness, and these were both heightened during the pandemic, the work of the Foundation was more crucial than ever.

"What’s struck me most is remembering how difficult it was during the pandemic and how vital some of the services that were provided would have been," Brooker added. "For people who will have been on their own, how isolating it was. It’s easy to forget how difficult that was, and for York to have got themselves into action so quickly and to help people is a really big thing and they deserve a lot of credit for that."

The National Lottery Football Weekends campaign will celebrate the role that the likes of York play in their communities, and aims to encourage fans to get down to their local non-league club.

"Our communities would be less without our football clubs, no matter where you are, and I think it’s important to support them," Brooker said. "You don’t want our local non-league football clubs to be forgotten about.

"I just think from what I’ve seen today is the community level and sense of togetherness as well. I’ve only been here a few hours but I’ve been really taken by it, it’s had a real impact on me. Meeting the people and seeing what the club’s doing and means to them, it’s really heartwarming. It is a reminder to someone who consumes Premier League football just what football is all about."

As part of National Lottery Football Weekends, tickets will be offered on a two-for-one basis for selected non-league matches - an offer that 14-year-old Brooker would surely have utilised.

"Go to football, get involved at your local football club, but it’s not a dating ground. That’s the one thing that I’ve learnt," Brooker concluded - before being interrupted by a couple from the Sporting Memories group who met at the football, quickly followed by another who met on their way to Wembley. It really does go beyond football.


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