National League club closing gap on Football League
BT Sport's National League presenter Matt Smith believes the gap between non-league's top tier and the Football League is decreasing every year.
In recent years a number of clubs have built upon promotion from the National League and had successful first seasons in the Football League.
Last season Darrell Clarke's Bristol Rovers achieved consecutive promotions and just fifteen months after securing a Football League return, they will ply their trade in SkyBet League One this season.
With more and more clubs in the National League operating on a full-time, professional basis Smith believes that the gap will continue to shrink as more clubs apply methods seen at the top end of the game on a regular basis.
He said "From what I have seen, and I will see a lot more this season, but what I have seen in FA Cup coverage of National League clubs in the last season or two is that the gap between the National League and League Two and perhaps even League One is decreasing.
"Obviously some clubs in the league are semi-professional but you could almost apply that to some Football League clubs.
"There are some subtle changes that have been made with things like advanced fitness regimes and the application of sports science.
That has spread throughout the National League and that allows them to thrive and to compete at a higher level"
However, Smith believes that there is one major difference between the National League and those that feature at the top end of the game.
With the lucrative player contracts and multi-million pound transfer fees thrashed out on an all too regular basis, Smith admits that he can see why many supporters have turned to the non-league game, with supporters finding it easier to related to players and managers.
"What you get in the National League is an honesty" he said, "it's still the game that I think we, as fans, can relate to easily.
"It's not from another galaxy as the Champions League or Premier League can seem at times but it is a standard of football we are relate to.
"The connection between club and fan, certainly between fan and player, has stretched because of the rewards on offer at the top end of the game.
"It has become a bit Hollywood, these guys exist on a different planet almost, that's how we feel as fans.
"I would like to think at National League level that bond is still strong and I hope we can bring that across on BT Sport, we want the fan at home to feel that bond.