Groundhopping day sees non-league football clubs achieve record attendances for the season

Once a year, fans of non-league take part in a Groundhopping Day, where a group of people travel to several grounds throughout the weekend across Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Groundhopping Day in the North West Counties League began in 2017, but due to the pandemic people involved were unable to take part last year, making this weekend’s events even more special. 

This year, the Groundhoppers travelled to seven games within three days. On Friday night, Golcar hosted Campion in a five-goal thriller.

Saturday saw clubs in a particular area given staggered kick-off times for these travelling enthusiasts to witness four different games.

Bacup Borough, Padiham, Nelson and Barnoldswick Town all hosted games at different times of the day from 11am to 7.30pm with groundhoppers travelling to each match in turn.

A map of the route that Groundhoppers took on Saturday starting with Bacup and ending at Barnoldswick

And on the final day of the weekend, Ashton Town travelled to Steeton, near Keighley, and Ilkley Town played against Garstang. 

Overall, the Groundhoppers saw a total of 27 goals scored within the seven games.

Nelson Football Club chairman, Phil Heyworth, experienced his first groundhopping weekend – with four times as many spectators than normal attending Victoria Park for the clash with Chadderton, which Nelson 3-1 (pictured above – Pic: Daniel Hazell)

This is also Heyworth’s first season at the helm of the club after taking over from Shawn Lloyd in 2021. 

He said: “I’ve followed non-league football, and specifically Nelson for about seven or eight years now. 

“We’ve never been involved in a ground hop before, so it was something new to the club. 

“It was a really positive day. The result on the field was obviously good as well.” 

Nelson FC shared a photo of an above average stadium attendance.

“We had 350 people turning up which is unheard of really, for Little Wembley. Especially against opposition like Chadderton,” he continued. 

The average crowd for a game at Nelson ranges from between 80-100 people, and for that to be quadrupled is fantastic for a club, who play in the North West Counties League, First Division North.

The March Groundhop

  • FRIDAY – Golcar United v Campion AFC – 7.45pm
  • SATURDAY – Bacup Borough v St Helens Town – 11am
    Padiham v Ashton Athletic – 2pm
    Nelson v Chadderton – 4pm
    Barnoldswick v Avro – 7.30pm
  • SUNDAY – Steeton v Ashton Town – 11.30am
    Ilkley Town v Garstang – 2.30pm

So far, Nelson’s season has gone quite well, with a good run of form in the new year seeing them climb the table to seventh and challenge for the play-off places in recent weeks.  

One of the Groundhopping enthusiasts was Andy Hodgson, a 39-year-old Darlington fan from Teesside.

Hodgson has visited 140 grounds in his time and seen over 400 games, adding to his list over the weekend.

The father-of-two, even claimed to have a “pie hangover” from eating five pies on his travels.

Hodgson’s humorous tweet after his Saturday adventures.

On the Saturday, he travelled with four of his friends and told how much he enjoyed the day.

He said: “It was dead easy from start to finish.

“All of the grounds were really close to each other, so you had plenty time to get there between kick-offs.

“And the crowds were a lot more than the clubs would normally get.

“The day was brilliant and I had a lot of fun.”

Highlights of the Nelson vs Chadderton match. (Credit: Up North Productions)