AFC Unity’s Football for Food Taken to Next Level

Back in 2015, AFC Unity became one of the very first football clubs in the country to attempt to utilise the sport in a way that can tackle food poverty.

The Football for Food campaign was launched, with food donations made at home games, events, the first Awards Night, and even a specific Tournament dedicated to it, attracting teams from all across the country. All in all, AFC Unity collected 908kg of food that was distributed to local food banks.

Since then, other football clubs from non-league to the Premiership have joined the cause, encouraging supporters to keep the link between their team and their community. AFC Unity have continued to spur teams on to not only take part when playing against AFC Unity, but at their other games as well – in-keeping with Unity’s mission of grassroots football being utilised as a uniting force for positive social change.

In order to keep that commitment, a strategy was formed at the most recent of the unique Team Meetings  – where AFC Unity players, as key stakeholders, make decisions on the direction of the club and its campaigns and activities, fed back to the Board of Directors.

Recently, especially when AFC Unity had two teams, Football for Food events had seen a decrease due to the commitment needed from players to coordinate food bank deliveries.

However, at last month’s Team Meeting it was decided to bring back Football for Food for every game at AFC Unity’s new home of Sheffield Park Academy, which is located close to two food banks!

Not only that, but players proposed taking the drive even further than ever before – and accepting food donations at away games as well! Of course, this will depend on the hosting teams and is yet to be finalised. (If any teams reading this would like to take part, and will soon be playing AFC Unity, please get in touch!)

Rest assured, AFC Unity will be doing even more to tackle food poverty – while continuing to highlight causes through activities such as the #UnityForAll campaign as well!

Sponsor AFC Unity For as Little as £25!

You can enter AFC Unity’s 2018-2020 sponsorship raffle by purchasing 1 ticket for £25 or 3 tickets for £50 – you can buy as many tickets as you want.


Tickets will be drawn out of a hat at one of our Solidarity Soccer sessions, live streamed on Instagram, with sponsorship prizes including sponsorship of our home and away shirt (see full list of prizes below).

Even if you do not win any of the main prizes you will still be featured on our website, included on our social media headers, and promoted far and wide via our networks for the next two seasons!

Available sponsorship raffle prizes:

  • Home shirt sponsor for 2 years
  • Away shirt sponsor for 2 years
  • Training top sponsor for 2 years
  • All get included on AFC Unity’s website promoting your services and promotion via social media too

The deadline to enter into the draw is the 4th of July, with the draw taking place at our Solidarity Soccer session on the same day.

To enter, please contact AFC Unity at for the relevant form.


Exciting Changes to AFC Unity’s Board of Directors

AFC Unity are pleased to announce the addition of Sophie Smith and Jaimee Reeve to its Board of Directors. They join Directors Anna Cordwell, Jane Watkinson and recently re-appointed Jay Baker, overseeing the development of the club on and off the pitch.

Sophie has been part of the club as an 11-a-side player since the beginning of our first season whilst Jaimee started with the AFC Unity Jets before becoming part of the first team.

Jaimee and Sophie will also become the club’s Welfare Officers, putting their experience and expertise within health and wellbeing into ensuring that the club provides comprehensive support and advice for all players.

Jaimee Reeve was integral to organising the 2017/2018 End of Season Awards Night at The Showroom!

On being appointed, Jaimee said, ‘I am really excited to become involved further in the running of AFC Unity. As a player I have seen the positive impact of the club on individuals and the community. Within player meetings I have been able to express my view and input into decision making. I see being on the Board of Directors as an extension of that. I look forward to representing the club and supporting the players and community in my new role.’

Similarly, Sophie added, ‘Having played for AFC Unity for four seasons, I can’t wait to get more involved. I’m really excited for the future of this fantastic club.’

Sophie Smith won the Manager’s Hope Over Fear Award in the 2016/2017 season and has been a key part of the club since joining in 2014!

AFC Unity’s Chair, Anna, added, ‘I’m very excited that we are welcoming these two new ladies as Directors who have such passion for the club and a new energy to bring to the Board. I look forward to working with them.’

To read more about the Board of Directors and those involved running AFC Unity, please see here.

Up the Left Wing

by Jay Baker

As we enter the pre-season for 2018/19, it’s worth reflecting on the remarkable season just gone, culminating with our amazing Awards Night.

Let’s face it, as we’ve said numerous times, last season was about taking Unity to the next level, as a principle and not just a name. Having gone from two teams to just one, we aimed for a creation of squad harmony, with an emphasis on developing a team alongside individual players – we talked about the process, not the results; we knew all along that the results would take care of themselves later if we focused on the process now.

And, funnily enough, they did already – even sooner than I’d expected! Going forward I’ll be aiming to win games, now we’ve achieved harmony in the team and developed everyone, but here’s an honest admission: last season I never once tried to win a single match; at numerous games I made last-minute decisions that were about testing out elements of the team or a player, even if it meant the risk of throwing away a result (and yes, several results were thrown away because of that). It was tough to do at times, but I had to resist the temptation of getting caught up in the pursuit of victories and reminded myself that if I did that, I’d put at risk the development of the players, the team, and – as a result – the long-term plan.

With that in mind, it’s quite astonishing: without trying to win a single game, we still took 17 points from the season, compared to a measly 6 points the season before. Because results are a by-product of the process, and truly will be in the future.

Last season, aside from giants like Worksop Town and the big development squads, we held our own against teams hell-bent on winning – and often, in particular, hell-bent on beating AFC Unity. Why? Well given the season before, many put pressure on themselves based on the expectation to have an easy win over us. Calm in the knowledge we weren’t focusing on results, but instead the process, we came away from many matches looking pretty good anyway.

In the opening match of the season at Dearne & District, we had our only goalkeeper pull out in the warm-up, which was rotten luck, yet despite losing 4-1 at half-time, we mounted a comeback and only lost 7-5.

Again, some poor luck continued, losing 2-0 to Mexborough Athletic in a really close game, and then losing just 2-1 at Shaw Lane. We were winning 2-0 against Sheffield Wednesday Development at half-time, only to lose 3-2. But then we were losing 2-1 to Wickersley Youth, and came back to beat them 4-2. All exciting stuff.

Again though in some bad luck we lost a lot of players to absence, illness, and injury for the Socrates game, including our goalkeeper again, and got hammered 12-0 – at full strength in the return fixture we were winning 1-0 at half-time, only to lose 3-2 when they snatched a last-second winner. (We also got ourselves an excellent second goalkeeper!)

We beat Worksop Town Juniors 5-3 and then again, 3-1, but then gave Worsbrough Bridge Athletic their first big win of the season when we lost 8-4 at theirs, and sacrificed results against Millmoor Juniors Second and Oughtibridge War Memorial Development, and against Mexborough Athletic, losing 2-1, and were battered, not just in the scoreline but physically and psychologically, as intended, by Shaw Lane, in one of the worst games I’ve ever experienced.

But there were still better days ahead: both Oughtibridge and Wickersley held on to draw with us, the latter beating us 2-1 to knock us out of the Krukowski Cup, provoking a secret sigh of relief in me as I was apprehensive about progressing in the cup to face teams from higher up the league and distracting us from our process this season. We had bad defeats against Dearne & District, Millmoor Juniors Second, and Sheffield Wednesday Development, only to give the best footballing performance in Unity’s history in the final game, a win over Worsbrough.

It’s interesting to note that Rovers Foundation Development beat us heavily at the start of the season, only to forfeit the return fixture because they couldn’t field a squad – such is the chaos of developmental teams that are a stepping-stone for players with ambitions of playing at a high level. Some want to be the next Lucy Bronze or Steph Houghton. Recent weeks have seen news stories of big clubs buying their way into the top divisions of women’s football – which is delivering on its promise of emulating the men’s game and being money-dominated.

As a result, we may see more and more “development” teams with good coaches scratching their heads at the inconsistency they’re faced with because their players get called up to the first teams, and this inconsistency is felt in our division too: one minute a development team is beating everyone, the next they can’t even field a side. Who knows what the upcoming season will throw our way? We can try to win going forward, but ultimately we may also be at the mercy of top players being tried out in development teams ready to be plucked back up into the big leagues – and this can impact on our division and its results. There is a lot more context than people often realise.

There is definitely a clash of culture in non-league football: between individualism, and collectivism. Some players are out to do the best they can for themselves, and don’t necessarily care which team they play for; while others, such as those who continue to play for us, are passionate about wearing the shirt, and playing for our badge.

This grassroots league is essentially recreational – so many of our players say to me that they have challenging occupations or stressful lives at times and training and games at AFC Unity are a haven, a refuge; they don’t want negativity. As a result, we’ve just retained 16 players from that season just gone, into this pre-season, which is staggering considering many teams during the season can’t even put together a maximum squad of 16 for match-day!

We’ve built a foundation, and every player we have believes: We’ve said before, a player can either have team harmony, or can have everything go their own way just for themselves, but they can’t have both. You’re either an individualist or a collectivist; selfish, or a selfless team player prepared to sacrifice for the greater good.

The foundation we’ve built is strong, because it’s a squad of collectivists; we long since tested the integrity of players in the past who were found to be individualists, who were happy in any team or with any result as long as they were getting the lion’s share of game time. But this is a team sport and that’s not what football at its core is about, especially here at Unity – we thought when we set up the club that the clue might be in the name but it seemed to be lost on some people, or we were seen as easy pickings being a relatively recent start-up, perhaps desperate for players. We never have been desperate for players. We’re desperate for good people, first and foremost. Those are the ones who enjoy the environment – in particular, the players not with junior football fresh in their minds but more experienced players who are disenchanted with teams run like army camps, with “drills,” with a “survival of the fittest” mentality, and with “route one” football. They just want to enjoy their football and feel part of a team they can be proud of.

We are the team for them: a team where every player is valued, every player is seen as unique while working for a collective cause, every player from back to front needs to play a passing game, and attack together, and defend together. We’ve worked painstakingly over four seasons to get get to a point where the social and psychological environment in Unity is second to none: friendly, positive, hopeful, fearless, ambitious. I’ve said it before, some teams have beaten us yet walked away from the match looking depressed and dejected due to their negative team environment, while we’ve looked like winners. And although we’re building for the future, and we now aim to win games, that’s how you win no matter what: by being happy. Not such a wild idea.

Players come to us because they want that environment. Some are already pretty much part of that environment by taking part in Solidarity Soccer – and we’re looking there for players, too; that’s worked really well in the last year. But it’s up to players to choose us; to really want to be part of the Unity ethos and the Unity project. I’m proud to be picking those kinds of people as I seek a goalkeeper willing to develop, a full-back, and a central midfielder. Those are my priorities in terms of adding to this fantastic squad we have now, where the overall quality has increased even more to a level never before reached: we’re now fully a passing, pressing team. But the football is going to be even better. It’s already a great squad, and – given our criteria – that will only get better too.

Pre-season is going to be awesome.