Data. Throughout the top levels of football, it’s become a ridiculous buzzword. Expected Goals this, high intensity sprints that, every piece of commentary has a little stat hidden in. Some of us (myself very much included) love it, others hate it.

However, does data have a place outside those top levels of football?

Ryan Comber, 28, has been running Non-League Data on X and Twitter for the last seven years. The account tries to be a one stop shop for all things data in the non-league game, covering teams all the way at the bottom of the pyramid, from Step 1 to Step 5 and below.

As well as this, the account offers clubs at non-league level data analysis and deep dives into individual teams, including match and highlight reviews upon request.

“I’ve always been interested in numbers and football statistics, and it was a game between Billericay and Leatherhead in the first round of the FA Cup.

“It was one of the first non-league games I remember seeing on TV and, after the game, I noticed both of the accounts blew up on twitter whilst both in the same league as my local club.

“It was quite an exciting thing and then I noticed their increase in followers and wondered whether the increase would not just be for their online following, but their average attendance as well.

“I started tracking just those two teams, saw an increase, and then did the whole league and it just went up from there.”

It can be a thankless task at times for Ryan though. With non-league data nowhere near as readily available compared to higher up the leagues, it’s a real task to keep up the account. He estimates that he sometimes must spend up to five hours a DAY working through twitter pages and club websites making sure he has the correct information to give to his followers.

“It’s a lot hours I put into it.

“Even now, seven years in, I don’t know what website to go to that is the most up to date.

“I want to make sure my data is right and impactful, which is why I have started my distance travelled series, with league allocations being a contentious club issue right now.”

For Ryan though, it’s not only about the data and stats. The former Manchester United fan realised he supported a club where he had never really been to, and he found no real reason to not go down and support your local team, in his case, Worthing F.C.

“There is a misconception that football in non-league is a bunch of middle-aged men just kicking a ball about.

“But it really isn’t, it’s good football with good talent.”  

“Many clubs there at the higher level are to make their owners rich, it’s not for the love of the game really.”

When it comes to the most interesting stats though, it all comes back to where it all started for Ryan, tracking those social viral moments and how they translate to in person attendance.

“There is definitely a correlation I’ve seen between social growth and attendances, as when something goes viral you do see an increase.

“But it’s about keeping that sustained, helping give more revenue to the club and allowing them to push on.”

Ryan points to Maidstone this year with their magical FA Cup run that saw them get all the way to the fourth round of the competition. Their attendances for the cup games were completely sold out, but when it came to league games, despite an initial increase, it does then begin to drop off, and getting that consistency is difficult for clubs, at the end of the day though, it all comes back to the data.

“Data is very important because, if you take a football club as a smaller local business, you need to know who is coming and what you can do to grow that fan base, without data on the pitch and off the pitch, it’s difficult to do that.”

For more content from Non-League Data you can find their X account @UKFDFC and for more data led stories, click here.

Read more stories below:

Non-League data