The rise in the profile of non-League football, particularly the National League, has led to more media interest in broadcasting the games live at home and internationally.
With a number of former Football Leagues members now in the non-League pyramid, the level of professionalism and quality within the National League has never been higher.
How can fans watch the National League then? Here is the lowdown on how fans and other interested parties can watch the National League:
The media giants are the National League’s official Broadcast Partner in the UK. For example, TNT (formerly BT Sports) will show 30 National League games live in season 2023/24.
Amongst those games will be all the promotion play-offs, including the final. TNT Sports will also cover the finals of non-League competitions, the FA Trophy and the FA Vase.
Due to the UK 3 PM live football blackout, the selected live games will usually be televised on Saturday at 5.20 pm or Tuesday/Wednesday at 7.45 pm.
National League TV
However, the other way to consume non-League football live is via the relatively new streaming service National League TV. The streaming service was launched fully on boxing day in 2022 after a soft launch earlier in December.
The National League confirmed the introduction of their streaming service with a statement that read: “A huge amount of work has been ongoing behind-the-scenes with the League now in a position to announce a soft launch of the streaming platform on Saturday 10 December with a full launch two weeks later,”
“The first phase of the launch will see streaming introduced for National Division clubs only while the League works with North and South clubs running pilot events in the second half of the season to ensure logistically it can be delivered for North and South Divisions for the 2023/24 season.”
“The National League would again like to reiterate its commitment to providing a quality streaming platform that benefits all 72 Member Clubs.”
International fans are able to stream all National League matches via the National League TV website, no matter when they are played. Viewers in UK and Ireland can stream all non-Saturday National League matches, as long as they are not the games selected by BT Sports. Fans will need to have a BT Sports subscription to watch those games.
As the above statement mentioned, National League TV is also looking at running test events for broadcasting the North and South divisions alongside its National League coverage in the future.
A boost to the National League brand
The introduction of National League TV came after Wrexham’s owner Ryan Reynolds criticised the lack of coverage of his club and the National League in general.
The Canadian-born A-list actor expressed annoyance and frustration at the lack of National League coverage via his Twitter account.
After months of maximum effort, the decision (through inaction of the @Vanarama National League) to not allow domestic/international streaming of matches of Wrexham and the other clubs in the league is truly baffling. CC @btsport. Pls RT!!! 1/4
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) August 29, 2022
Despite Reynolds’ comments, the National League claimed that a streaming service had been looked at for some time and hinted that the actors’ high profile did not force their hand in the development of their new streaming service.
The National League were concerned that any live media coverage would affect stadium attendance within their league. However, non-League fans tend to be a loyal bunch who will go to watch their team live whether they are streamed or not.
The new international streaming service is the opportunity for the National League to spread its brand worldwide, thus raising its profile and bringing in much-needed revenue for the league and clubs themselves.
The arrival of Reynolds and co-owner Rob McElhenney at Wrexham has undoubtedly opened the National League up to the US market. The documentary ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ has introduced football fans in the USA to a whole new world of action and historic clubs.
The endearing documentary, not just featuring the two Red Dragons co-owners, but the club’s fans, players and the town of Wrexham itself, has proven to be a massive hit internationally.
Arguably in the past, the National League could have been better at selling itself as a brand. The introduction of the new streaming service, plus the increased interest in the league due to the presence of owners like Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, can only be positive for the league as a whole.