Visiting new grounds for the first time is something Shire fans have had plenty of experience of this season, so few should be unfamiliar with the reason why Saturday’s trip to Hawick Royal Albert has an unusual 7pm kick-off time.
It’s to accommodate the third annual Scottish Groundhop Day. The event was set up in 2015 to allow fans from all across the UK to come and experience non-league football in Scotland at places they were likely to be visiting for the first time.
Groundhopping has been a phenomenon for a number of years, particularly in England, with football enthusiasts who have outgrown the trail round the home grounds of clubs in the Premier League and English Football League and who wanted to continue their wanderings through England’s pyramid system.
The Groundhopping UK group formalised an agreement with the Lowland League in 2015 and one round of fixtures was set aside with staggered kick-offs starting on a Friday evening and continuing on until the Sunday afternoon, allowing all the visitors the chance to go to every match.
The advantage to the league was evident with crowds, and gate revenue, for the host clubs boosted by more than 200 people who were attracted along.
Last season the second day was every bit as much a success, the only dampener being when a waterlogged pitch forced the postponement of the game at Preston Athletic. Nevertheless, the crowds at these games ranged from 300-450, many more times than the clubs would ordinarily have expected.
This year the East of Scotland League has joined in and will take on the majority of the games with only Shire’s visit to Hawick and the Preston Athletic versus Cumbernauld Colts fixtures included from the Lowland League.