As you will know, AFC Unity have won the FA’s national Respect Award for the women’s pyramid. The decision was announced on the 19th of July, 2016 and co-founders Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson were invited to Wembley Stadium on the 7th of August, 2016 for the Community Shield so that they could accept the award from the FA’s acting chair David Gill before dignitaries from Bobby Charlton to Alex Ferguson, and from Geoff Hurst to Sam Allardyce. There, the FA premiered the video explaining the work we do and the reasons for the award:
Despite the co-founders long since resigning themselves to the possibility that the establishment would not recognise an indie women’s football club for their commitment to fairness on and off the pitch, including tackling food poverty in local communities, Director of Football Sarah Richards proposed a nomination for AFC Unity with its genuine dedication to practicing what many clubs preach in terms of the Respect Code.
As a player in the first season, the following year Sarah Richards was joined in her second and final run as a player by Sophie Hirst in Unity’s defence – and it was the latter’s write-up to the Football Association that ultimately convinced the governing body, supported by local figures like Nick Waterfield from Parson Cross Initiative (one of the food banks served by AFC Unity’s Football for Food campaign).
Interestingly, the FA themselves expressed appreciation for AFC Unity’s brand-new Solidarity Soccer initiative that superseded its previous development system, unique Football Philosophy with its trail-blazing “100% positivity” approach, and passion for treating players and people with dignity and respect – and how this links directly to the act of collecting food donations for local food banks at first team home games, which the FA were also supportive of.
AFC Unity are proud to be the Respect Award winners for 2015/16 and will continue such commitment to greater fairness in football, and a fairer society.