Anna Pringle is a University student in Sheffield yet she manages to find the time every weekend to follow Kettering everywhere.

Living in Sheffield and travelling to Kettering each weekend to watch her beloved club must be a pain, but the 20-year-old does it anyway.

Semi-Professional talks to the dedicated fan and student about her travels in non-league, and the atmosphere around the grounds she visits.

It was easier for Anna to follow her club when they were in the National League North for two years whilst she was at uni, travelling to places like Leeds and Manchester. 

However, after Kettering’s relegation, it has been harder for her to get to games.

“Last season was a lot more difficult, as relegation meant we were playing in the Southern League Premier, meaning that for most away games I would have to travel back home to then travel to the away destination,” she says.

“But, I have been able to coordinate Kettering’s season around university.”

So why is Anna a Kettering fan?

“My love for Kettering Town stemmed from my Dad,” Anna says.

“He has been going to games since the ’70s and his love for The Poppies really rubbed off on me – and once again, that is something I am truly grateful for.

“My favourite part of the week during the football season is travelling to a game, meeting up with my Dad, and enjoying the experience – even if results don’t go our way.”

Because Anna saw every game last season, we wanted to know what the atmosphere is like for her at non-league games.

“Following Kettering is one of the best things. I really feel like we have a close-knit community, especially when we travel away. There’s always familiar faces that you see at every game, and to be able to spend the day with these people really makes the experience enjoyable.

“Most teams we play in the league also have such lovely and welcoming fans which does epitomise the community that non-league football has produced.”

As a woman, football matches can be quite an intimidating place despite the attempt on social media and around the leagues to make football as equal as possible. 

Anna says she can feel as though she isn’t always treated as part of the community when she travels to non-league games.

“As a woman who has travelled to watch football, both in non-league settings and in higher professional leagues, I have experienced varying degrees of judgement and acceptance as a supporter. In non-league settings, the atmosphere tends to be more intimate and community-oriented.

“On one hand, the smaller crowds often mean that regular attendees get to know each other, which can lead to a more welcoming environment. On the other hand, if the local fan base isn’t used to seeing many women at the matches, it can feel a bit like being an outsider.

“People might be more curious or surprised to see a woman there, and while this isn’t always negative, it can be uncomfortable at times. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt very much part of the community, but there have also been instances where I’ve felt the need to prove my knowledge of the game more than my male counterparts.

“I’ve also noticed a growing number of women attending these matches, which is gradually changing perceptions. I think that, whilst perceptions are changing, women still do feel some sort of stereotyping and judgement. Despite these challenges, the passion for the sport and the community that comes with it make it worthwhile.”

The importance of fans in football altogether is massive, but for non-league football it is vital. Anna says on their importance, “Fans are at the heart of every Non-League club, and the money that we spend attending games really helps teams financially.

“Football is nothing without fans, and especially at a lower level, ‘we’ keep our clubs going. As the Premier League grows even bigger every season, it is so important to remember the impact of grassroots football. 

“Following Kettering is something I wouldn’t change for the world, and I am so proud to have been brought up in a community that acknowledges the history, depth and importance of non-league football.”

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