Up the Left Wing

UpTheLeftWingby Jay Baker

I’m writing this at a time of New Year’s Resolutions and renewed energy and enthusiasm within AFC Unity as we go forward with our “women’s football revolution” – which is reflected by our commitment to the community as well as our Football Philosophy which, within that, has meant developing a style of play that is finally giving us a footballing identity and a sense of ourselves as a football club: the way we play, why we do it, and how we do it.

There’s nothing more rewarding for a coach or manager than to see these things starting to emerge, and to see these points starting to click on the training ground, where if you get into good habits there, they become good habits in matches, too.

Once we were hit by over half a dozen first team injuries at the start of the season – essentially dashing any hopes of finishing high in the Second Division – it would have been easy – in such a time of footballing “crisis” – to compromise this style of play to protect ourselves from heavier defeats, but to do that would have meant having to learn the playing style all over anyway after that challenging period was over, which would have presented its own problems too, of course: if you can commit yourself to a style of play when times are hard, conceding a few goals more in defeats that would have likely happened anyway, then you can play in that style like it’s second nature by the time the crisis is over, and really hit your stride, which is what I feel we’re about to do, even with (or thanks to) additions in the first team from the second team; additions that were somewhat inevitable but expedited given the gaps in the team due to injuries.

Obviously, the main talking point has been the creation of a second team this season and how that meant players were part of a smaller team. Naturally, that presented an immediate trial for us: previously unable to meet demand following only our second-ever season in football, we simply had to face the challenge of a first – and second – team of potentially slightly smaller numbers, and while although at one point we had about 21 registered players for the second team and 19 for the first, because turnout is smaller than with one team there is less competition for spots which can breed complacency, something we haven’t expected to be an issue in our positive environment, but is, to an extent, natural.

But it had to be done: while the first team are on the long hard road to footballing success in terms of their quality and increasing standards, the newly-formed AFC Unity Jets finally gave opportunities to players who hadn’t had much chance to get stuck in to 11-a-side action in a relaxed environment, and right away, right at the get-go, expressed excitement at this regardless of the turnout; a spirit so rare it won them a nomination for another Respect award. We’ll see if the demand we tried to meet sustains and remains evident, and assuming it is, we see the AFC Unity Jets as a key intermediate step for players to get 11-a-side games and, eventually, use the opportunity to grasp our style of play and formations which we want to be utilised at all levels, throughout the club, from beginner sessions and up through both teams.

Because we’re that rarity of being an independent women’s football club, many are used to women’s teams being an add-on to a men’s club and even used as a “cash cow” to open up access to funds that end up being spent on the men. But for us, the creation of the AFC Unity Jets was never about money. Our prices as a club are amongst the most competitive in the country, so often we break even, and as a non-profit organisation any proceeds we do make go right back into the club. In many cases, a second team can generate more money but also cost more money, so it makes little difference on finances. But because as a social enterprise it’s always about more than money, you have to consider the cost to resources and energies as well. Beyond financial rewards, return on investment means returns in terms of activity and contentment are really important, so it really matters that everyone involved – from players, to coaches, to co-founders – are getting a lot out of it. That’s our primary motivating factor.

So as with any expansion – including our Solidarity Soccer initiative – you have to avoid doing an infamous Starbucks error and see demand so chase it to the point of over-stretching yourself and risking “corporate cannibalization” – a business phenomenon where you offer so many options that each subtract from one another and put a drain on resources. You have to be careful to keep strong what you have and not dilute anything. Such dilution can come in the form of financial dilution, or the dilution of the activity so it risks going off-mission. With Solidarity Soccer, we’ve spotted the warning signs and made sure to emphasise quality over quantity, which might mean fewer sessions or a renewed dedication to an inclusive environment for beginners, where 11-a-side players instead heighten their role as ambassadors (some of the very best 11-a-side players came through our Solidarity Soccer initiative, so still love it!)

The Solidarity Soccer initiative, like the AFC Unity Jets, is also important because we want our football philosophy to become a trend not a fad, and ultimately the only way we can do that is by nurturing our own players from the ground up, which naturally will mean looking towards a junior set-up. Some grassroots coaches, like Martin Bidzinski, are trying to emphasise a different way of coaching football with players from an early age in this country, where instead of talking about “the second ball” all the time, we look at “the first ball,” and quality touches, and retention of possession. You have to set a foundational style of play for a team, or club, and then you can tinker with it or tweak it down the line, but first and foremost the fundamentals of it must be understood.

But ultimately, our own football philosophy, coaching approach, and playing style are all part of the same ethos as what we do away from the field, in the community: you’ll notice we use words like “collectivism,” “empowerment,” and “positivity” in any scenario, on or off the pitch. Despite our incredible retention rates, there have been one or two players who couldn’t understand our club, feeling like it just wasn’t for them, and saying things like, ‘the food bank stuff is nice, but I don’t buy into positivity,’ as though they’re separate things. They are one and the same! It’s all part of the same AFC Unity approach, and you can’t appreciate or embrace one and not the other. I never make a single coaching decision without asking myself, ‘Is this football a reflection of what we’re about as a club?’sheffield_womens_football_fairtrade

But in these post-Thatcherite neoliberal times of “Survival of the Fittest” (a principle far too many teams are based on), our ethos is sadly not for everyone. Other clubs and even governing bodies may be baffled by our approach where we run a tight ship and stamp out bullying behaviour or cliques – for so long a given in football – but we’ll keep doing it, because we have to be more than a welcome refuge for players that didn’t fit in elsewhere, but have to try and contribute to positive change in the sport itself. We’ve even been ridiculed by opposing teams for using fair trade footballs – which makes me assume they much prefer, say, a little child exploitation, sweatshop labour, or worker exploitation with their Sunday league football. How peculiar! These are, as John Lennon sang, strange days indeed.

Yes, Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States. Yes, Labour MPs are being assassinated on British streets by right-wing extremists. Yes, there’s a Brexit. Yes, it can seem like we live in cynical times. And yes, to use an example from AFC Unity, there are those who love seeing us lose, post jibes on social media, leave abusive comments below, and cheer on bigger, more established clubs that keep the order in place.

But some of the best people I’ve encountered have been through my very lucky position as AFC Unity’s manager and the majority of people – the really good, decent, positive people – are rooting for us. We really appreciate that. We know we’re doing something right. And we will keep going, with the spirit of positivity and integrity at the heart of every decision we make. It’s brought us this far, but it will take us even further, so we can do more good things both on and off the pitch. The year ahead may bring many changes and challenges, as always, but I have no doubt is going to continue to be absolutely amazing.

Why I fell out of and in love with football…

Extract from Carrie Dunn’s Roar of the Lionesses: Women’s Football in England book

Written by Jane Watkinson, Co-Founder and Co-Captain of AFC Unity

When I was 16 years old, I walked off in the middle of a game when I was playing for Sheffield United Community Girls football team. It wasn’t the best way of dealing with how I felt, but I was fed up of feeling taken for granted, I was fed up of the negativity and lack of enjoyment I felt every Saturday morning with a manager that would tell us all how badly we played, and struggle to ever find anything positive to say. I walked off and didn’t play football again until I was 22 years old.

This was really strange, because football defined my life when growing up. I lived and breathed football. In career interviews at school I would be asked what I wanted to be and I would say a footballer, obviously to laughter and a follow-up question of “yes, but seriously” – but my dream was to get a scholarship to play football in the United States as a living, as you can see in my interview with the BBC when I was 16 as my school team, Meadowhead, became the best girls team (14-16 year olds) in the UK.

I didn’t fit in at the Centre of Excellence though. Being subbed off as soon as you made a mistake and being surrounded by a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality does nothing for confidence – well not mine, anyway. I never played how I knew I could play when I was there, I was a shell of a football player and there was no wonder they kicked me out. I had dreaded Centre of Excellence like that feeling I got every Sunday evening before school restarted on the Monday.

There is something really wrong about this. Football, which was my biggest passion when I was younger, caused me some really stressful and upsetting times. Reflecting on this though, it wasn’t football, it was the environment and as a product of this I did some stupid things like walk off in the middle of a game and I didn’t play the football I knew I could. I was so scared of making mistakes. Mistakes were there to be feared. I don’t remember any positive encouragement or feedback, I just remember a very cliquey and negative environment. I myself became negative and adapted to be part of this environment.

Playing for Meadowhead School was different, the coach was absolutely fantastic and would always talk positively about us all as a team and individuals. It’s not a surprise that we became the best girls football team in the UK, playing and winning the final at West Bromwich Albion’s Hawthorns stadium. The coach trusted me with the captain armband as well, even though I didn’t believe in myself – he believed in me. Before the final, he wrote personalised letters to all players telling us why we are so key to the team and what strengths we bring. It was so positive, hopeful and he never shouted and always spoke about how “it’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you deal with it.” He never put any pressure or sense of expectation on us as a team and that was a big reason for why we won that competition – in fact, that year we won the treble, picking up the South Yorkshire Cup and the League trophy as well.

It’s when I look back at these experiences – which aren’t unique, they are typical of so many women’s experiences of football, so many women that gave up and quit the sport, often at 16 years old – that I am so proud of what we are achieving and doing at AFC Unity. We provide a safe, positive, welcoming and inclusive space for women to enjoy and love the sport like so many of us did when we were growing up, kicking a ball in the back garden or with our friends in the park, in the streets or in the school field. When we were younger, how many of us really cared about the score? We just loved the experience, we built friendships, we felt a sense of pride and achievement and we encouraged as many of our friends to take part as we could. It’s only when we grew older, and we start to be socialised into a more negative, survival of the fittest competition ethos and culture does things go south for many of us.

That passion and love I have for the game when I was a kid, in my back garden spending hours and hours making up stories with the ball has been reignited by AFC Unity and by the management and coaching ethos at the club led by Jay Baker and carried out throughout the club by Head Coach of the AFC Unity Jets Emily Salvin and player-coach of the Jets Corinne Heritage with both teams having key leadership figures helping ensure this alternative ethos is encouraged and maintained. The encouragement of creativity, freedom, enjoyment, learning, positivity, belief and making mistakes as part of growth and development has set me free as a footballer, and has also had an impact on me as a person. Many women we have involved in the club have told us about the impact the club has on them on the pitch but also off the pitch. Many have told us they wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t for the club. Because that’s the thing, football is a lot more than about turning up on a Sunday afternoon and the sole focus being about winning 3 points. It can be a way of life.

This alternative coaching and management style is therefore so important for us to harness and develop as a club going forward. We have some big plans and I can’t wait to help us achieve these whilst also enjoying playing the game I love.

Yes, there are women that want to play at clubs where the emphasis is on winning at all costs, some women do thrive in a ‘survival of the fittest’ environment, and some women are okay with being shouted at from the sidelines and by their own players and can cope with negative, high-pressured environments. That’s up to all of us women to all individually decide what we want and prefer. We have had players within this club that get frustrated with and critical of the positivity and alternative ethos, often because they aren’t used to that environment and because we pull up behaviour or negativity that other clubs would accept as a normal part of the game – it was part and parcel of the sport when I grew up and then I couldn’t imagine anything else. What we offer is so different to traditional football environments, it has to be protected for the benefit of the whole rather than an individual and also for people that want an option different to what traditional football environments provide.

I know there are a lot of women out there who grew up loving the sport and might have felt a bit disenchanted with the sport along the way whilst growing up, and maybe left the sport like me when they were young and are wondering if there is anything out there for them that can reconnect them with that fun and love they had for the game. My message to you is give AFC Unity a try, it really is a club that has an alternative, counter-cultural positive environment that offers something so different to any other club.

Reviewing the Football for Food Campaign Expansion

We received funding from Awards for All, Big Lottery Fund and Freshgate Trust to expand our Football for Food campaign, raising awareness of the extent and causes of food poverty – tackling misrepresentations and myths – which includes static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and problems with welfare whilst collecting more food to distribute via Sheffield Food Collective to local food banks.

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The events part of this extended campaign included:

*Kick-Ups in Town: 19th of June 2016, Devonshire Green, 10am-6pm – at this event we ran a pop-up stall at Devonshire Green where we had donation buckets/containers to encourage donations of food for food banks we are working with via Sheffield Food Collective, with a stall with information about the campaign (via leaflets), whilst players from our 11-a-side teams handed out fliers to members of the public and also attracted people by kicking the ball about and doing tricks and skills where possible. Players were sponsored to take part in the event by food. Through this event, we collected 133 items of food, working out at around 49 kilograms of food. The event was also covered on Sheffield Live.

*Pop-Up Quiz: 8th of July 2016, Union Street, 18-20 Union St, Sheffield S1 2JR, 6-9pm – at this event we organised a Football for Food general knowledge women’s focussed pop-up quiz where people entered to take part by bringing food to donate at the event. We also included questions regarding food poverty within the quiz to raise awareness of the issues and the reasons for why we are running the campaign. Through this event we collected 70 items of food, working out at around 28 kilograms of food.

“Shocked at how much food poverty there is in our city” – feedback from someone who attended our Pop-Up Quiz event

*Football for Food 5-a-side Tournament: 16th of July 2016, 12-4pm, The U-Mix Centre, 17 Asline Rd, Sheffield S2 4UJ – AFC Unity, AFC Unity Jets, Yorkshire St Pauli, Mount Pleasant Park FC, Roundabout Utd, Clapton Ultras, Small Ideas FC, Easton Cowgirls and Mexborough Athletic all entered to take part in this tournament by donating food rather than paying to enter with spectators encouraged to bring food to donate as well. We also had the following speakers talking at the tournament:

*Gill Furniss, Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough
*Carrie Dunn, a journalist, writing about sport – primarily women’s sport – and has covered events from World Cups to the Ashes to the Olympics
*Nick Waterfield, works in and around Parson Cross in North Sheffield for the Methodist Church and is the Chair of Sheffield Church Action on Poverty
*Debbie Matthews, CEO of Manor and Castle Development Trust for 11 years and one of the founder members of the S2 Food Bank
*Steve Clark, volunteer with the Sunday Centre – a project open every Sunday afternoon for homeless and other vulnerable people – for about 12 years and is their current Chair

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At this event we collected 915 items of food, working out at around 355 kilograms of food alongside a £50.00 donation for the food banks. This is more than we collected in 11 events previous to this point (excluding the Sponsored Kick-ups and Pop-Up Quiz events!).

“The link between football, socially minded football teams and social justice / food projects is potentially very powerful” – feedback from someone who attended our 5-a-side Football for Food tournament.

We also premièred 3 videos we have had made by local filmmaker Claire Watkinson for the campaign.

*11-a-side players volunteering at The Sunday Centre, 24th of July 2016 – The Sunday Centre provides a friendly shelter for homeless, isolated and vulnerable people where they can obtain refreshments and a cooked meal in the city centre on a Sunday afternoon. We volunteered to help with the serving of drinks and food to guests and chat.

In total, through the expansion we collected 1118 items of food working out to be around 432 kilograms of food!

Campaign Videos

As part of the Football for Food Campaign Expansion we had 3 videos made by local filmmaker Claire Watkinson – these videos were shown for the first time at our Football for Food 5-a-side tournament. The three films were:

1) Did You Know? Key Facts on Food Poverty:


In this video, players and personnel from AFC Unity deliver key facts regarding food poverty to the camera, with the aim of friends and family sharing this around their social media networks helping raise awareness regarding the issues. This was a key part of our campaign, as we didn’t want to only collect food donations without raising awareness of why this is happening and needed. Moving forward, we wish to challenge the growing normalisation of food bank use as this is not part of creating a long-term fair and equal society.

“I didn’t quite realise the scale of the problem, with 4 million in food poverty” – feedback from someone who attended our Pop-Up Quiz event.

2) Food Bank Case Study:

A food bank we distribute collected food to was visited – this food bank is based in Parson Cross at Mount Tabor Church. Parson Cross Initiative Share Food Bank have utilised this video to promote the work they do too.

3) We Are AFC Unity:


This video helped us as a club promote what we do, creating more awareness regarding our Football for Food campaign, highlighting how the club is an agent for social change rather than just being a football club.

Campaign Statistics

As part of the campaign, we also produced a page on our website where we added and will keep adding statistics on food poverty and the causes and reasons for this providing people with further reading and sources/evidence for the claims we have shared during the campaign (such as through our Did You Know? Key Facts on Food Poverty video).

Awards Ceremony and Launch of Expansion of Football for Food

We launched our Football for Food campaign expansion at our End of Season (2015/2016) Awards Ceremony, where we also collected around 12kg of food and 31 items. Nick Waterfield from Parson Cross food bank attended the event and talked about the importance of the campaign.

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“Very surprised by the number of children in poverty in Sheffield” – feedback from someone who attended our Pop-Up Quiz event.

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Football for Food 5-a-side Tournament

The Football for Food 5-a-side Tournament was the biggest event as part of the expansion campaign. We do want to build on this more however, as there is a worrying normalisation of food bank provision within the welfare system. This is a key reason for why we had speakers at the tournament that talked about community food provision, food poverty and community responses to it.

“There should be something like this in every council/village/town” – feedback from someone who attended our 5-a-side Football for Food tournament.

All teams were presented with an award at the end of the tournament by Nick Waterfield for taking part with the winners winning the “Football for Food 5-a-side Trophy”. Sheffield Live and BBC Radio Sheffield covered the tournament event too.

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We had 7 volunteers that helped out on the day:

  • Kate, helped with selling merchandise and counting up the food donated on the day.
  • Sarah R helped with counting up the food donated on the day.
  • Sarah C recorded the scores of the games, the goalscorers and updated the league tables coordinating with the referees.
  • David helped with coordinating the speaker section of the event.
  • Theo helped with counting up food and collecting survey and demographic information.
  • Sharon helped with taking the food collected away at the end of the game.
  • Nick Waterfield from Parson Cross food bank helped out by providing teams the timetable of the day and a tournament booklet when they got there and also presented the awards.

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We are planning for this to be an annual event – responding to the feedback we have got from running our first ever tournament – until food banks are not required at the extent they are. We do not want food bank use to be normalised but understand how valuable they are at times like these and are encouraged to carry on given the positive feedback regarding our campaign and events run as part of this.

“Great campaign to raise awareness, collect food and have fun whilst doing it” – feedback from someone who attended our 5-a-side Football for Food tournament.
“It is an excellent initiative, as it helps on three levels: 1) Practical volunteer support 2) Donations 3 ) Raising awareness” – feedback from someone who attended our 5-a-side Football for Food tournament.

We also had a video produced documenting the Football for Food 5-a-side tournament which includes interviews with some of the speakers and players that took part in the event.

“Effective, well run and a brilliant way to raise awareness and help those relying on food banks” – player feedback regarding the campaign.

Media Coverage

The project has received considerable media coverage:

“It’s brilliant! It makes such a difference and it’s something nice to get involved in instead of just playing football” – player feedback regarding the campaign.

Key Campaign Achievements

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  • Through the expansion we collected 1118 items of food working out to be around 432 kilograms of food.
  • Ran a series of events that not only collected food but also raised awareness of the campaign and why we are running the campaign as a club.
  • Demonstrated the potential for football to be more than a game, and football clubs to be key agents for social change.
  • Raised awareness of the scale, extent and reasons for food poverty with an emphasis on the local context.
  • Changed people’s opinions on food poverty and the use of food banks, tackling myths and misconceptions e.g. on who uses food banks.
  • Engaged a wide range of people across Sheffield and beyond in the events and the campaign.
  • Achieved wide spread coverage for the campaign, the campaign being key to us winning awards.
  • Engaged several volunteers in the campaign organisation, research and implementation, increasing confidence, skills and social networking.
  • Empowered 11-a-side players as positive role models through their involvement with the campaign.
  • Helped improve our promotion of the regular food collections we do at our home games, helping us produce marketing material we can utilise beyond the project to keep advertising this.
  • Increased our connections with food banks in Sheffield, understanding the need more and how we can make the campaign work better from now onwards.

Long-Term Plan

We want to do more work on raising awareness of the causes of food poverty, with real life stories and the impact this has had something we will look at doing more on. We have done a lot on sharing statistics and the extent of food poverty, but we can definitely do more on producing real life stories that people can connect with that can relate to challenging the normalisation of food poverty.

Solidarity Soccer Participant Spotlight: April Worrall

Solidarity Soccer is our innovative community based football training initiative for women which has empowerment, skill sharing and a personalised approach shaping it.

We spoke to regular Solidarity Soccer attendee April Worrall about her experiences of Solidarity Soccer, and what kind of impact it has had on and off the pitch – April has won the Teamwork Digital Award and has been a key part of our Tuesday Solidarity Soccer session.

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AFC Unity: In a few words, how would you describe Solidarity Soccer to someone who hasn’t been?
April: It’s a fun weekly event where you can join other women to learn football skills and play football.

AFC Unity: What would you say to someone who hasn’t been to Solidarity Soccer if you wanted them to come along?
April: Switch off your TV or phone and come and join me and others enjoying playing football‎ and learning new skills. It will make you feel better all round.

AFC Unity: Do you have any stories that stand out from your time of being involved in Solidarity Soccer?
April: I’ve met some really nice people who have managed to recapture during the sessions, what I fondly remember football was like for me as a child. Fun and rewarding working with a team who are supportive‎ throughout. I had been looking for a session like this for a while and glad I have found one close to home.

AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer had an impact on your outside football life?
April: Yes, it’s encouraged me to do more exercise as I was starting to believe sitting down was a sport at one point. It’s also helped me whilst re-training in a new job as the exercise has helped manage stress better.

AFC Unity: If you could pick one word to describe Solidarity Soccer what would it be?
April: Enjoyable.

AFC Unity: What has been your favourite skill to learn and why?
April: I’ve enjoyed learning the 360 degree turn, which has taken a lot of practice. It makes my game more entertaining even though it makes me a tad dizzy.

AFC Unity: Anything else to add?
April: Thanks to all at Solidarity Soccer and if you’re thinking about taking up a sport then try Solidarity Soccer…you won’t regret it!

AFC Unity: Not Your Average Team

by Sam Holmes

 

In this day and age, it is rather difficult to maintain a set of morals within football. With the constant media pressure, any player’s antics are captured and reported about within minutes. Every nightclub squabble, training bust-up or driving fine seems to be applied to a player on a weekly basis. Of course, sometimes players do not respond in the most positive of ways. Some even forget how they act as role models for young players across the world.
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This shortage of genuine footballing heroes, many of whom receive considerably less media attention than the less well-behaved amongst them, proves worrying at times. The constant misbehaviour often transfers through to Sunday league, with abusive language towards referees or supporters unfortunately being as commonplace as goals at times. It can be demoralising watching or playing for a local side, and having to witness such negativity.

Thankfully, I have been lucky enough to experience a team that refuses to be tarred with the same brush, so to speak. AFC Unity pride themselves on being ‘an alternative football club for women’. There is no room for criticism within the group, and rightly so. It is purely about being a team – win, lose or draw.

This mentality, rarely seen in the modern game, has brought about the right results. Their sheer dedication to contributing as a team resulted in a mid-table finish in Division 2 of the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s County Football League. This was undoubtedly extremely respectable, considering it was the squad’s debut in the second division. They built a sort of fortress at home, losing only twice as hosts throughout the campaign, one of which came against eventual runners-up: Edlington Royals.dsc04621

AFC Unity were founded in 2014, which highlights just how successful they have been. To climb into a higher league and establish stability and consistent results within two years was not only impressive, it was attractive. The high interest in the side led to a long list of applicants, each hoping to represent the team. This, in turn, formed the second-team. AFC Unity Jets’ formation, whose name stems from ‘suffragettes’, highlighted how an initial squad bursting with confidence, yet encouragement for one another, could lead to other women wanting to play football.

Players of all ages, each with differing levels of experience of the beautiful game, now represent the teams. The expansion saw form drop somewhat this season, however with long-established sides such as Sheffield United Reserves competing, there is certainly no negativity. There is no reason to be pessimistic, as high morale within the team has rewarded them in past seasons.

unityworkstouchlineCo-founders Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson are confident that, once the injured return and younger players adapt to playing at a higher level, the goals will start coming. Maintaining the team chemistry appears to be a vital method of yielding results. Jay, who is also first team manager, told his side the following during training:

“Whatever reason you first started playing football…that is why you want to play on Sunday”.

This quote perfectly defines the whole club, and again contrasts to the ideologies of today’s footballing powerhouses. Nowadays, the so-called ‘stars’ of world football often seem to lose sight of the main reason for playing football. It shouldn’t merely be a way of acquiring a mansion or the newest supercar. There should be passion on the pitch. Often, a bad challenge is regarded as passion. This common misconception again suggests that football has lost its way.

Football, at least at the highest level, seems to involve criticism constantly. The media critique players, the players blast managers, and the managers roast referees. The cycle continues. Therefore, it is so refreshing to see a team with a differing outlook. AFC Unity ignore all unconstructiveness associated with football. They boast a football philosophy concerned with inclusivity and fair play.

They are, simply put, a remarkable team.

 

Photo credits: Yin-Hsuan Yiang and Kate Fenton-Jarvis

 

AFC Unity Join the Fight for a Pay Rise!

fightforEveryone at AFC Unity has worked so hard to make the Football for Food campaign such a continuing success.

It is with great pleasure that we can announce that AFC Unity have agreed to support the Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise Campaign.

The campaign is building towards a demonstration in Sheffield City Centre on Saturday 17th of December at 1pm on Devonshire Green to which as many AFC Unity representatives as possible are welcomed to come, with kits, tracksuits, scarves, beanies and badges all on show!

With low wages being one of the driving reasons behind people finding themselves in food poverty, it is really important to understand and tackle these travesties. Politics affects all of us every day, whether we choose to engage or not; it affects the prices of goods in the shops, the wages and security of the jobs that are available to us. But this is not a passive situation. We can all choose if and how we try to influence these things.

Many of us will be affected by the low waged economy we see today – it may be us or a member of our household who is on low wages and vulnerable contracts. And a low waged household may have to find places to buy low cost goods, which is likely to be a place paying low wages, and so the cycle continues.

If we can start to challenge the reliance on low waged jobs in some of our high street companies – which, let’s remember, will likely be generating large profits – we can start making a change for the fairer to how our communities operate. By engaging with employees and encouraging union organisation in the workplace, and by linking union members across different workplaces people can support each other to take the sometimes difficult and courageous move to gain a voice and some power as employees.

Union membership has already started to make a difference to the shocking conditions exposed in Sports Direct and ASOS factories and made a real difference to people’s working lives. In the fast food industry, many companies in the USA have started to pay a proper living wage due to the organisation of union members in their workplaces.

That can happen here.

So, the Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise campaign is calling out the high street companies, calling for a proper Living Wage for all (not dependent on age) of £10 an hour and calling for union recognition in the workplace.

The campaign chimes with many of the key messages of AFC Unity – Unity (of course!), Empowerment, Solidarity and Teamwork.

In solidarity AFC Unity is planning to offer discounts on some club purchases to union members – more to follow!

We really hope you can join us at the demo on Saturday 17th December and / or can help to publicise the campaign by taking leaflets and following/sharing #Sheff4Ten and @Sheff4Ten on social media.

The campaign will build on the demo and continuing fighting for these aims in 2017 and beyond.

If you want to find out more please or want to get more involved in the campaign, please ask!

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Football for Food’s Reverse Advent Calendar

We’re in our second season of our Football for Food campaign, following on from a massively successful 5-a-side tournament with talks held alongside it this past summer.

Now it’s the “Season of Giving,” our first team have played all their home games for 2016 – but at the suggestion of Director of Football Sarah Richards and current director and first team co-captain Simone Fenton-Jarvis, inspired by similar initiatives elsewhere, we’re kicking off a club-wide “Reverse Advent Calendar”!reverseadventcalendar

The Reverse Advent Calendar takes us back to the original spirit of the season (and grassroots football itself), with its focus on solidarity, community, and giving back in these capitalist times of consumption.

Those within AFC Unity are invited to grab a box or bag, and each day in the month of December, add a single item of food to it, right up until the 24th, at which point it can be delivered to a local food bank! (Our volunteers can help with this, but it’s sometimes great to go directly, in which case we can connect participants to a food bank nearest to them). Those taking part can use the #FootballForFood hashtag in their social media posts documenting their progress!

Our friends at the Sheffield Food Collective offered a handy list of what might be best to contribute.12063598_993844903991636_417211139417466014_n This can have a massive impact on people’s lives, particularly at this time of year, and is another way of showing that the AFC Unity ethos of collectivism and community is more important than ever.