WITH FC Clacton’s game at Gorleston called off early on Saturday morning, I was ‘forced’ to instead watch the feast of sport from the warmth of the pub on Saturday afternoon.

This prompted a discussion with my friend during the Six Nations about how rugby sets an example to football in the way players respect referees, the (general) lack of cheating, a (mostly) decent TV replay system and the fact fans can still mingle and interact in the stands without any trouble – while consuming copious amounts of alcohol as they do it!

Rugby Union is a changed sport since the introduction of professionalism and the strength, conditioning and athleticism of players now is through the roof compared to 25 years ago.

Yet rugby has managed to make that transition while in the main retaining its overarching ethos of respect, fair play and the mix of fierce on-field competition and off-field camaraderie.

Increasingly we hear of non-league football clubs trying to be more ‘professional’.

This usually means that a manager wants to improve the training sessions, to get the squad fitter and better drilled and to demand a better attitude and commitment from their team.

But behind closed doors it often also means the darker arts of the game; appealing for every decision and getting in the referee’s ear to influence the next decision, kicking the ball away or stopping a quick free-kick being taken, diving or dirty tricks to provoke opponents into rash acts.

We know there is more money sloshing around some parts of non-league football – just look across Essex to Billericay and Coggeshall for just two examples.

But we must be careful that with more money an increasingly ‘professional’ attitude takes the positive and not the darker sides of that term if non-league football is to retain the charm and authenticity that often sets it apart from its Premier League cousins.

Let’s hope we see plenty of that this weekend as FCC again head north, this time (weather-permitting) to Great Yarmouth as we go searching for our first points of 2018.

Come on you Seasiders!