by co-founders Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson
From our years of experience in the community sector, one of the most important principles of running a social enterprise is ensuring you meet a demand; evidencing this is key to all grant funding applications for this reason: there has to be a demand.
When we founded AFC Unity early in 2014, we didn’t anticipate needing a second team quite so soon. But by our second season it became particularly apparent that, with our unique ethos, we were attracting so many players that we had to advance on this concept.
Yes, we run community projects like Football for Food. Yes, we are about much more than what happens on the pitch. But as we tell Carrie Dunn in her brand-new book Roar of the Lionesses: Women’s Football in England, the success of AFC Unity in the league, long-term, is important for the profile of our indie women’s football club so that we can do even more social good.
With that in mind, just as AFC Unity had in its first season progressed from Division 3 to Division 2, where it consolidated nicely in its second season, this time we had to take one step back in order to take two steps forward: two teams, leaner at the start of the season, with a clear set of criteria, slowly building up as 2016/17 progresses.
We wanted to make sure that AFC Unity could continue to get better and move up the league over time, but there were players who were coming through our Solidarity Soccer initiative, and others who needed more game time to develop and couldn’t in the first team, so a second team became a necessity.
And so, the AFC Unity Jets came to be.
With a young, dynamic Head Coach, Emily Salvin, who personifies our Football Philosophy, the AFC Unity Jets are comprised of players who want more game time, aren’t ready to commit to the pressures of the first team, or just want a little experience of competitive league football – some are even more than capable of being first team players but are important characters to have in the AFC Unity Jets at this time.
When you’re a Jet, you might be for any one of the above reasons.
This has meant that not one, but two teams have essentially started from scratch. Incredibly, with each passing week, more players are added to the rosters of each of them. The ever-important “demand” is high. The AFC Unity Jets project is already a success.
One thing is for sure. Given their David-and-Goliath status as the quintessential underdogs with a “no quit” spirit of positivity befitting the “Integrity” badge itself, their journey – which everyone in AFC Unity is watching, and documenting – will see them go onwards and upwards. Emily Salvin is assembling a squad that has a contagious vibe to it, and one that can’t be kept down. After all, you don’t keep Jets in the hangar.