Unity wins 3-2 against Sheffield Wednesday Ladies Development

By Finola Fitzpatrick.

AFC Unity played Sheffield Wednesday Ladies Development on the 20th December in their final league game before Christmas.

Manager Jay Baker said “It’s the best football AFC Unity has ever played.”

Although Unity was down 1-0 at half-time, there was a general feeling that the team had been unlucky getting goals.

Not to be defeated, every player entered the second half with a fierce determination to bounce back and perform well as a team.

Incredibly Lucy Strutt went on to score two goals in the second half, and at one point it looked like it was going to be a hat trick.

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Amy Ward also scored an impressive goal for Unity, which helped to seal our 3-2 victory.

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What made this game special was how everybody really pulled together in the second half.

Win or lose, everyone just wanted to play their best and go away from the pitch knowing they’d given it their all.

It’s great seeing training pay off, because we passed well, countered quickly, and had bad luck in the final third. But we never gave up. The integrity of the team and this club is reflected in the football we play, as well as in the incredible generosity of our football for food campaign. – AFC Unity manager Jay Baker

 

183kg of food and immeasurable generosity: thank you to everybody who has supported our football for food campaign.

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A blog post by Finola Fitzpatrick.

I am always proud to be a part of AFC Unity football club, but this last week has just been something else.

Truth be told, I am really quite overwhelmed.

AFC Unity is passionately committed to tackling food poverty in Sheffield, and for weeks now we have been collecting food donations at our home games, which are then distributed to food banks across the city via the Sheffield Food Collective.

With Christmas fast approaching, we decided to push for even more donations, as it is a time of year where families are presented with additional pressures to provide.

We decided it was important to deliver a season of giving as well as a season of football.

Sunday was a huge day for us. Not only were we playing Sheffield Wednesday Ladies Development, it was also the culmination of our season of giving.

Nerves were high. But not just your usual pre-match jitters. We knew it was our last opportunity to collect food donations before Christmas, and we wanted to make a difference more than ever.

We laid out the donations box and patiently waited for players and spectators to arrive.

However, there was no need to be patient as, incredibly, some of our players managed to secure donations from local schools and supermarkets which filled our box as quickly as the players had arrived with them.

Players and spectators were not the only guests we had on Sunday. ITV Calendar News very kindly came along to film a TV package about our football for food campaign and season of giving.

I was absolutely overjoyed that they came along as it gave us a real platform to raise awareness of food poverty in Sheffield.

Vice-Captain Sarah Richards was interviewed by Calendar and is one of the players who recently visited the Parson Cross Initiative’s food bank to see first-hand how our collected donations are making a difference to the local community.

It was there she found out that one in three users of the food bank is a child under the age of 18.

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She said: “I can’t imagine what it must be like near Christmas, especially with children. It must be hard enough as it is to provide for your family, without it being Christmas where there are additional pressures to provide.”

Speaking about her visit to the Parson Cross Initiative’s food bank, Sarah said: “It makes you realise that you can take things for granted, that you always have food in your cupboard, that you’re not struggling like a lot of people are. Children should have a childhood and not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. If you see the work of a food bank first hand, you can take it back to others and spread the word of how important donations are.”

Nick Waterfield, a community worker from the Parson Cross Initiative’s food bank, was also interviewed by Calendar. Nick has been a staunch supporter of AFC Unity’s football for food campaign right from the start, and regularly comes along to our home games.

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He said: “The support we get from AFC Unity and other supporters is amazing, because without donations we couldn’t carrying on running a food bank and people would just go hungry. All the food we get is based on donations, and this time especially in the run up to Christmas, every donation counts.”

Amazingly, we have just been told by the Sheffield Food Collective that AFC Unity’s football for food campaign has collected 183kg of food, which is enough to provide 350 meals for families across Sheffield.

At this point I think we should thank everybody who has donated to, or supported our football for food campaign in some way.

I also just want to say how proud I am to be part of a football club that is so passionately committed to making a difference to the community it is part of.

I am extremely excited to see how our football for food campaign develops in the new year, and once again… thank you!!

To watch ITV Calendar’s feature about football for food in full, click here.

Co-Founder Jay Baker resigns from Board of Directors, becomes manager indefinitely

Co-founder Jay Baker has resigned from AFC Unity’s Board of Directors in order to open up room for more managerial opportunities within AFC Unity as part of the social enterprise’s ambitious expansion plans.

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The move means that, rather uniquely, AFC Unity’s governance is now entirely led by women – while Baker commits to a more formalised managerial position, after initially ‘trying out’ the role, and becoming only the second person ever to receive paid work through AFC Unity, after Jonny Hodgson, Head Coach of Development.

A Fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Jay offers nearly 15 years of experience in the community sector and vows to dedicate more time to taking AFC Unity to the next level.

‘We have a fantastic Board of Directors, and alongside my co-founder Jane Watkinson I will work tirelessly to expand the social enterprise and develop greater revenue streams to make it a more sustainable business, in order to do greater good in the community,’ Baker said.

He will also continue to coach and manage the first team.

‘I had originally anticipated the role to be temporary, but following positive feedback from the Board of Directors and players, I feel that for the foreseeable future it is in the club’s best interests for me to accept the suggestion to continue managing the first team, as well as the organisation as a whole, until such a time as our growth requires duties to be delegated more.’

The Manager’s first task is to map out a strategy for greater development of the organisation, some announcements for which will begin to be released early in the new year.

Sheffield Hallam students present fundraising ideas for AFC Unity

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A blog post by Finola Fitzpatrick

Myself and club co-founder Jane Watkinson recently went along to Sheffield Hallam University to listen to students giving presentations of event ideas for AFC Unity.

As part of their Event Management module, BA Public Relations students were asked to come up with unique and inspired plans for fundraising events that would be compatible with the club’s ethos and values.

It was fantastic to see just how much time, effort and research students had invested in their presentations.

We felt that everyone had a real grasp and understanding of what AFC Unity is all about.

The first group presenting to us came up with the idea of having a film screening of Bend It Like Beckham for AFC Unity players and supporters. The group felt that the selected film conveys a lot of the themes and values AFC Unity aims to promote as a club; such as empowering women, challenging stereotypes and promoting social equality. Eager to implement our football for food campaign, it was also explained that donations of food would be collected at the screening, which would then be distributed to food banks across the city via the Sheffield Food Collective.

Next up was a group pitching the idea of a women’s five-a-side football tournament. 10 teams from across Sheffield would take part- including university, community, and business teams. The aim of the tournament would be to raise the profile of AFC Unity within the community, forming positive links and relations with all participating teams. The group stated that this aim would reaffirm AFC Unity’s commitment to engaging with the local community. Food donations would be collected at the tournament, and medals would be given out to create a sense of achievement for all of the players.

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Bubble football is a game which AFC Unity have tried out before, and was something that seemed to go down well with the players. One group presented an event idea with bubble football at its heart, promising something which would be “a little bit difference and engaging for everyone.” The group said their idea for a bubble football tournament would get people of all ages involved, and provide fun for all the family. It was suggested that AFC Unity’s club sponsors Nourish could have a stall at the event, offering healthy snacks for all spectators. Food donations would also be collected on the day.

At this stage Jane and I could already tell just how much the groups had thought about implementing our club’s commitment to tackling food poverty into their event ideas. There was also evidence of careful thought from the groups about planning the events in a way which would promote our brand, core values and ethos appropriately.

Something a bit different again, the next event idea was for an open mic night at The Harley pub located in central Sheffield. The group stressed the importance of the event starting mid-afternoon in order to make it family friendly and more accessible to all. Local bands would take part, offering a platform for emerging talent in Sheffield. There would be a BBQ, a stall selling AFC Unity merchandise, and food donations being collected. Again, we were delighted to hear yet another group was so keen to champion our football for food campaign at their event.

The final idea to be pitched was a formal dinner party evening for AFC Unity. The group branded the event as a highlight in the social calendar for players, club officials and volunteers. They also said it would be a celebration of Unity’s work over the last year, including speeches from manager Jay Baker and other key representatives from the club.

It was a privilege for Jane and I to listen to all of the ideas that the Sheffield Hallam students came up with, and they have given us a lot to go away and think about. We would like to say a big thank you to all of the students who presented to us from Isabel Ruiz Mora’s seminar class- the amount of thought you put into your work was very obvious, and we really enjoyed meeting you all.