Here at IBWM, we're all big fans of non-league football. The true heart of English football can be found within, and it seems that more and more people are affording their local teams a chance to impress them. The annual Non-League Day event has done its bit and gets the turnstiles spinning every autumn. As seasoned non-leaguers, we hope plenty of those first-time fans never look back.
If the fans are the lifeblood of non-league, volunteering and working tirelessly to keep clubs operating of a matchday, then the players are its veins. Amateur and semi-professional players are living a very different dream to the professionals, a dream where every up has a down and every modest weekly payment has a 100-mile round trip for a game after a day of work.
Until now, there have been hidden difficulties for these stalwarts of the English game and they've had little to support them in times of adversity. Injuries can end football participation but can cost day jobs too (I've seen it happen). Payment isn't always timely, and occasionally doesn't happen at all. Insurance can be expensive for players and clubs, and in extreme circumstances it has been known for clubs without insurance to come under serious threat of extinction once its absence becomes a problem.
That's why Francis Duku, himself a bona fide non-league legend in London and the surrounding areas, founded Our Game, an all-encompassing support service for amateur and semi-pro footballers everywhere. Launched in August 2012, Duku's brainchild is focused on making life in football a more satisfying and less risky experience for the players that keep it alive.
Its core offering at the outset is the most important: bespoke insurance with significant discounts for players. For an introductory fee of around £1 a day, players can join Our Game and enjoy its benefits, advice and support. Most importantly, they will be insured for free: £150 per night spent in hospital, £300 for a broken digit, £1,500 for a broken leg or dental treatment, and a robust pot for private physiotherapy.
On top of all that, insured players are also covered in the event that their career on the field ends due to injury and they wish to further their prospects in the workplace instead. With more time to dedicate to work, prematurely retired players will have access to up to £5,000 by way of a 75% contribution to training or re-training of a skill, new or old.
Underpinning all that is the Our Game website, which will grow to offer support, advice, news, discounted equipment for sale and additional content developed specifically for non-league footballers. And it's about time too. Do you play? You know what to do.