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Sunday 31st July 2016 ko 14.00

Peterborough & District League Premier Division

SAWTRY 0

STILTON UNITED 2 (West 77 Denning 81)

Att 534

Entry £4

Programme £1

I remember last time “The Itinerant Football Watcher” Peter Miles sent me the “There’s loads here already” message. That was at the final game of the 2015 Welsh hop at Penmaenmawr Phoenix and the gate turned out to be a Welsh hop record! Our coach pulled off the A1, that message arrived again, and I hoped for something similar.

Sawtry’s success was entirely predicable. Every hop we at GroundhopUK organise we use a similar blueprint- adapted slightly for the needs of the various leagues we work with. We encourage community involvement, the groundhoppers will only visit once, so the legacy over and above the financial, has to look inwards.

Sawtry took an idea pioneered by the likes of Berinsfield and Peterborough Northern Star and took it to another dimension. When Bedfordshire Hop organiser Craig Dabbs looked at the massive crowd and looking as stunned as Chris Berezai and I commented,

“They’ve rewritten the rule book haven’t they?”

So what did Sawtry do other than be excellent hosts? There were two elements to it, the first was to take what was a local derby, and saturation-advertise it across both villages. Their social media accounts made sure every single person knew about the game. That got people to the ground, but that’s only ever half the battle.

Because when you’ve got those people there, you need to make the most of that opportunity, and that’s what I’ll remember Sawtry for, rather than the crowd. They fed the throng with Jerk Chicken, quenched thirsts with a bar, and managed to keep the queues moving, no mean feat! Then there was the village fete in one corner, complete with bouncy castle. The effect was a family fun day with a football match in the middle and that’s what made this visit so special.

Truthfully the game itself was not a classic, the cliche of the attritional local derby held true here. Eventually Stilton broke through with two late goals to take the points, but there was a real irony to ponder as the travelling circus left for Wittering.

Stilton rejected the chance to take part in the very first UCL/PDFL hop, something that apparently they’re rather embarrassed about. They ended up getting a ringside seat on one of the best hosted hop games ever. That’s not to say we’ve completely ruled out taking the hop to Stilton, especially if and when they move back to the village.

But despite the result the day and perhaps even the hop belonged to Sawtry. They’ve put down a marker to every single club that follows them in hosting a hop game. The question now is which club can beat them?

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