We’re often asked, since we call ourselves an “alternative football club” for women, what makes us such a thing? What makes us so different to our peers? Here are ten things that make us an alternative football club:
1. We’re a social enterprise.
The social enterprise business model means we can be more professional in our approach, but are still a not-for-profit organisation.
What often separates grassroots from professional football is the legal structure of the organisation: most grassroots clubs are unincorporated associations, barely subject to regulations and lacking a business plan, while professional clubs are profit-driven, focused on return on investment for shareholders. AFC Unity occupy the middle ground – fitting for a club that’s quickly expanding yet has no desire to join the “dog-eat-dog” culture of money-dominated professional or semi-professional football. AFC Unity’s articles of association mean that, although we’re a limited company, all proceeds must go right back into the club, and we are subject to scrutiny from HMRC and Companies House.
2. We’re just for women.
Most women’s teams are attached to an established men’s club – at grassroots, and in professional football. This often means that women are an afterthought or, sometimes, utilised to bring in funding as women’s football becomes a bigger priority for governing bodies (although not all the funding reaches the women’s teams in these male-dominated clubs!) AFC Unity is entirely focused on, and dedicated to, women’s football, reflecting its feminist values, commitment to female empowerment, and passion for equality. Although this makes us almost always the underdogs, we prefer it that way.
3. We’re run by women.
As a social enterprise, the organisation is run by a Board of Directors – and all of ours are women. With backgrounds in governance, community and football, these directors of the board oversee the running of the organisation, and understand the importance of AFC Unity’s commitment to women’s football.
4. Our manager’s a feminist.
Despite the manager being a man, he’s a lifelong feminist, with years of experience of campaigning for women’s rights and working with disadvantaged communities. With this background in community work, Jay Baker draws on this knowledge far more than traditional football coaching, in order to develop a unique football philosophy.
5. We have our own football philosophy.
The football itself reflects the ethos of the club: unique individuality within a collective working together for the greater good, with 100% positivity. You can find out more here.
6. We buy Fair Trade.
As evidenced by the Indonesian sweatshops of Nike, and the recent Sports Direct scandal, so much sportwear and equipment is unethical, we tried to make our resources reflect our own ethics. Toga Sports, who created our personalised kits, stress the ethics of their production, while our balls, from Senda Athletics and now Bala Sport, are certified Fair Trade.
With this approach, we’re hoping other football clubs will follow in using products that are locally and/or ethically made so that we resist exploitation of all kinds, and as football clubs do our bit to contribute towards helping make ours a better world.
We’re constantly seeking to further source ethical produce and materials for as much of our training resources as possible – so let us know if you think we can do even better!
7. We measure results differently.
With our league results in two seasons already exceeding expectations, you can be forgiven for assuming we’re all about winning. The irony is that our measure of success is through the good we have done as a whole – collecting 339kg of food contributions for local food banks, offering wider opportunities for women of all backgrounds and skill levels, and greater player pathways thus engaging hundreds of women in our first two years alone.
8. Our brand.
Since we’ve been against the odds as an indie women’s football club, we’ve relied on our ever-increasing brand awareness for reaching people who might not usually find out about us; when people see our logo or our posters, they recognise us pretty instantly.
9. Our allies.
Anything different always provides a culture shock for established institutions based on the status quo. Despite this, AFC Unity have enjoyed the support of funding bodies and organisations such as South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation and South Yorkshire Sport. Beyond this, we have been able to connect with likeminded clubs: Easton Cowgirls, Republica Internationale, United Glasgow and Yorkshire St Pauli are just some of the examples of the clubs with whom we enjoy a healthy relationship.
10. We’re entertaining.
The Football Philosophy mentioned earlier means our playing style is designed to be positive, pro-active, attacking and exciting. On the pitch, we do our best to represent women’s football as best we can, to attract more and more people to the game.