About

AFC Unity is a socially progressive, multi award-winning, indie women’s football club and social enterprise based in Sheffield, UK, providing opportunities for both beginner-level and advanced female footballers in our exciting, high-energy, positive playing style, while utilising the sport for positive social change and remaining linked to – and active in – the local community.

One of the few of its kind to have been created as a women’s team without being supported by a pre-existing men’s team, AFC Unity was founded by Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson in 2014 in the birthplace of association football itself – Sheffield – as an alternative football club to utilise their dedication to feminism and social justice in combination with their passion for the sport to make a positive contribution in the local community. Both have extensive experience in the community sector, running numerous projects in South Yorkshire for several years.

The club name harks back to the original term Assoc. Football (or “soccer” for short), as an association football club, but in this case actually stands for Alternative Football Club, adopting the colour red to represent socially progressive ideals, and as a homage to Sheffield’s historic Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest club, as well as the surrounding South Yorkshire towns of Barnsley, Doncaster, and Rotherham, whose major teams also play in red. “Unity” speaks for itself: it represents the ethos of the club as utilising the unifying power of the sport.

The club has achieved The FA Charter Standard Adult Club status and has been awarded the 2015/2016 FA Club Respect Award, took Bronze in Sports England’s Satellite Club of the Year Awards, were runners-up in the Most Innovative Organisation category at the VAS Make a Difference Awards and were also recipients of the Sports Personality Award at the South Yorkshire LGBT+ Awards.

Mission statement: AFC Unity is an alternative football club for women, focused on bringing the game back to its grass-roots as a uniting force, bringing people together for the love of the game beyond vested interests and the influence of profit. AFC Unity focuses on women, as they have been historically excluded, and aims to produce and promote positive role models.

Vision: AFC Unity envision a society where the football club plays an active role in its community, engaging and empowering women as positive role models, and using the sport to encourage unity, solidarity, and social cohesion.

Values:

  • Empowering women – by engaging women in football and encouraging development – regardless of background, experience or ability – and by presenting positive female role models, working with the community

  • Tackling misconceptions – by challenging sexism and preconceived notions around areas such as gender, sexuality, race, religion, and age, and promoting women’s football as a grassroots sport dedicated to the non-profit ethos

  • Promoting social justice – by using football as a tool to bring communities together, developing a positive ethos and identity for the club

  • Opposing oppression – by empowering women to challenge the sport’s image as a man’s game, engage in community activities, fundraising for good causes, and campaigning on important issues

You can become a member of AFC Unity Ultras, our supporters group, for £2.00 (or £1.50 with trade union discount) a month to help support the club – read more about this here.

We are currently sponsored by CFM Limited.

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Solidarity Soccer

Our award-winning Solidarity Soccer programme is about showing how football can reflect life, that it can be a positive force for change and help people learn valuable life lessons and apply these in other contexts.

Started as an inclusive “co-ed” concept at local parks during AFC Unity manager Jay Baker’s time in Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada, Solidarity Soccer has been developed with co-founder Jane Watkinson to emphasise that football can be a force for good, increasing confidence in life and interpersonal skills and body image, improving health and fitness whilst breaking down barriers and divisions that exist in society.

We engage women who have never kicked a ball before, wanting to return after an injury or regain fitness or women who are wanting to get more football practice in. It is an innovative form of football training where we use technology, have digital awards and help with personalised aims that women who join set. As part of the session, we run “Tech and Tekkers” where every month women are taught a new footballing technical skill (Tekkers) – such as the Cruyff Turn, stepover, Zidane/Maradona Turn, or rollover – with the women’s development captured using technology (Tech) to produce a short video each month.

To get involved please get in contact.

Campaigns

We do all we can to help the club be an agent for social change and further socially progressive values and issues.

Previous work includes our Football for Food campaign, where the club encouraged players, management and supporters from both teams alongside the general public to come to our home games not only to watch a good game of grassroots football but also to bring donations of food that we then pass onto the Sheffield Food Collective who distribute it to the four Sheffield food banks they work with: Fir Vale, Parson Cross, Firth Park and S20. The campaign was also about raising awareness of the extent of food poverty, the reasons for why more and more people are going to food banks to not only help increase the donations but also tackle any misconceptions and stigma for why food banks exist. Via this, we collected 870 kilograms of food at 24 events. You can read more about this here.

We are now developing links with the trade union movement to look at tackling one of the main causes of food bank growth and use, which is low pay and poor working conditions and the benefits of trade union membership when counteracting this. Through the club, trade union members can access discounts on player subscriptions and Ultras membership.

Ultras

AFC Unity Ultras is the club’s official supporter membership system, where you can sign up for as little as £2 a month – or £1.50 with trade union membership – and not only support an independent, socially progressive women’s only football club but also access the following:

*25% off AFC Unity merchandise
*Get involved and get to know the players
*Attend our AGM and have an input into the running of the club
*Attend our end-of-season awards event night and vote on an AFC Unity Ultras Award
*Membership newsletter, containing member only content including thank you videos from players
*A free AFC Unity wristband and pin badge

To find out more or to sign up to become part of the AFC Unity Ultras please get in contact. You can also sign up here to our general newsletter providing email updates about the club.