Having just retained from the previous season every player who was able to stay on, AFC Unity has reached its most harmonious environment yet despite the toughest season of its history, and this has enabled the realisation of “player power” long talked about as a key aim since Unity’s founding by Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson in 2014.
A bold vision for where AFC Unity needs to be by 2020, the creation of the 2020 Vision is a catalyst for change throughout the football club so that better results can then harness better social impact in the community.
The squad provided their input and ideas to help refine the proposals put forth by former Manager Jay Baker, now redefined as a Head Coach for the purposes of being a facilitator simply helping the team realise its own objectives. Coming out of the discussions were themes of an increase in friendly competition, commitment, and intensity, with a focus on taking Unity to the next level on the pitch so that more can be done off the field, too. The club’s funds and profile are to be boosted too, through greater ownership from the players themselves, given Unity’s status as an independent women’s football club while also being legally registered not-for-profit subjected to submission of annual accounts. The players are to have greater rights and responsibilities as well within the club.
The team’s agreement created a “Player Pact” that will actually be drafted up and signed at the squad’s first on-the-ball training session next week.
Following the event, Jay said: “It’s ironic that it took our worst season to finally bring together the most harmonious squad we’ve ever had, but this has meant we’ve been able to therefore truly open up the football club to ‘player power’ where the team itself has a working document, and – as Head Coach – I’m just here to ensure we enact that. With this approach, and by being a multi-award winning, legally registered not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, with a cult following, AFC Unity continues to push to the front when it comes to being a cutting-edge, dynamic, forward-thinking, democratic, and accountable football club empowering the women who play for the first team!”
Co-founder, secretary, and No. 3 Jane Watkinson added: “I’m excited by the collective approach to helping the club reach a new level on the pitch, which we know we can do, while this also helps with increased awareness of social justice campaigns.”
Winner of the 2017/18 Unity Award, the 2017/18 Hope Over Fear Award, and the 2018/19 Collective Award, No.37 Rachel Rodgers stated: “These are positive ideas for moving forward and being a creative and exciting footballing side.”
2017/18 Solidarity Award winner No.24 Jodie Spillings said: “It’s good – it will make everyone work for that spot on a Sunday.” No.33 Lisa Gray added: “We can be a force to be reckoned with next season!”
Now in his sixth season coaching the side, Jay concluded: “We’re different to any other football club anywhere, and I think that dynamism is what attracts players. For weeks, even months now we’ve had at least one different player reach out to us every single day about playing for the first team – it’s incredible – but we currently already have twenty-three players, and one excellent triallist, leaving one spot left to be carefully awarded. Our squad has been stronger than any in previous years I’ve coached – and you need that given how rapidly the quality of this league has increased – but we’ve never had the commitment or consistency that we’re aiming to apply now, with just a superb inspirational group of strong women, and my aim is to deliver for them going towards 2020 so they can truly realise their immense potential.”
Everyone at AFC Unity wishes to once again express thanks to EYEYE for affording us utilisation of their fantastic space for this event and we urge you all to take advantage of their high quality service and products on offer!