BROWNE ON THE BALL: From a Gherkin brand launch to signing an X Factor and I’m A Celebrity star - are these football’s Quick fixes?

Doing things properly? David Newton (left) and vice-chairman Neil Kempster.
Doing things properly? David Newton (left) and vice-chairman Neil Kempster.

There are some cracking cliches which follow non-league football around.

You know the ones - northern cloggers and southern prima donnas going about their business on bobbly old pitches purely for the enjoyment of one man and his dog, shirts sponsored by Doris’ Snack Shack, cholesterol-fuelled centre backs, half-time oranges and ageing referees favouring whichever side is quickest to bum him a fag at half time.

But the truth - although often stranger than fiction - could not be further from these unfair portrayals. Non-league clubs are having major league ideas.

Take Barrow for example.

On New Year’s Day the Vanarama North title-hopefuls held a lavish bash to launch next season’s kit... at London’s Gherkin.

That’s right, the Bluebirds migrated 300 miles south from Holker Street to show off the fact that later this year their new home strip will be the same colours as the current one.

Club owner Paul Casson justified the London location due to this being a ‘brand launch’, adding: “This is introducing Barrow AFC to the national consciousness.”

And then there is Gainsborough Trinity, also making a dash for that coveted national consciousness.

Last week the Blues announced they were in talks to bring former Scunthorpe United trainee Jake Quickenden to the Northolme.

That sounds sensible enough until, if you’re out of the loop like me, you discover Quickenden hung up his boots for the celebrity lifestyle.

Having not watched X Factor or I’m A Celebrity for a long time I don’t know too much about him, but I’m told his face is pretty enough to make girls go all screamy and wobbly, even if his football career seemed to end with a spell at Northern Counties East side Bottesford Town.

Since the news first broke, Jake and Trinity have been on and off more times than Ricky and Bianca.

But the Blues did make it clear that their eyelash fluttering was more about publicity than football, adding that he would seemingly only turn out for the club if and when Trinity were safe from relegation.

I can see how devout non-league fans have every right to be miffed about those two publicity stunts.

Both moves favour seeking new fans at the expense of those who currently hand over their hard-earned cash.

But the reality is that from the Champions League to the United Counties League, from the Camp Nou to the Dog and Duck, money talks.

In a world where some semi-pro clubs are allegedly spending more than £10,000 per week on wages, clubs need money; not just to be competitive, but also to stay afloat.

Just look at what happened to Durham City when their sponsor pulled out following their promotion to the UniBond Premier.

Forced to field kids from the local college, they swiftly returned to where they came from.

Clubs need to generate money, they can’t afford to care whose cash it is, and Trinity and Barrow are by no means the first to think outside the penalty box.

Gravesend & Northfleet changed their name to Ebbsfleet United and were taken over by website MyFootballClub, which wanted its subscribers to have a say in signings and team selection.

Hyde United happily replaced their suffix to FC and temporarily changed their home strip colours from red and white to white and blue when a cheque from Manchester City was waved in front of their noses.

And Gainsborough once auctioned off the chance to replace manager Steve Housham in the dug-out for a county cup game, although this never actually took place.

Trinity are also by no means the first team to sign a celebrity - just think an ageing Socrates (Garforth Town), Ralf Little (Maidstone United), MC Harvey (AFC Wimbledon), Mark Wright (Lewes, Crawley) - although those four arguably had the ability to back up their selection.

You can argue Boston United’s signing of Paul Gascoigne was for footballing reasons rather than getting the club’s name in the papers.

But how much use is a player-coach when he’s rarely fit to play and spends training in goal during a practice match?

Of course, the Pilgrims need money to come out of the red - hence the Quadrant plans and the many add-ons which will generate revenue.

The proposed new stadium may not hit national headlines, but it is sustainable.

Quickenden playing football may bring a cash spike with bums on seats, but it would be a one-hit wonder.

And how many people at that Gherkin party will snap up Barrow season tickets with the same eagerness they grabbed at the vol au vents?

Good luck to both Trinity and Barrow.

In a competitive market where so many are battling to be seen and heard, their fresh and eyecatching ideas have brought them national attention.

But just how much cash has each stunt currently brought in? How much will they and can they bring in?

How many current fans feel they are being taken for granted when they can’t attend their club’s home-town kit launch until March? How many season-ticket holders will feel cheapened when the club they loves celebrates survival by replacing a fans’ favourite with a pop singer?

Boston chairman David Newton has been known to say he likes to ‘do things properly’.

And I think he’s got things right.