AFC Unity was found in 2014 by Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson in the home of association football – Sheffield! It is one of a few of its kind to have been created as a women’s team without being supported by a pre-existing men’s team. AFC Unity was born as an alternative football club to utilise Jay and Jane’s dedication to feminism and social justice in combination with their passion for sport to make a positive contribution in the local community.
The club name harks back to the original term Assoc. Football (or “soccer” for short). The club adopted the colour red to represent socially progressive ideals, pay homage to Sheffield’s historic Sheffield FC (the world’s oldest club) and surrounding South Yorkshire clubs (Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster) who also play in red. Unity was chosen to represent the ethos of the club: utilising the unifying power of sport and the spirit of solidarity.
AFC Unity has had a 5 a side team, 11 a side teams and community sessions over its history. AFC Unity 5 stars played 5 a side games in Sheffield. AFC Unity and Unity Jets have played in the Sheffield Hallamshire Women and Girls FA League. Most recently AFC Unity competed in the 2019-2020 league. Throughout it all Jay Baker acted as manager or head coach – he promoted a collective ethos on the pitch with passing football being key in the football philosophy. AFC Unity’s style of play directly reflects the ethos of the football club: the process is considered more valuable than the results; individuals are valued and bonded by the fact each of them are unique and offer something different; every player plays for the greater good of the team and not just themselves; play is brave, and bold, and fearless, as well as positive and pro-active; and when not in possession of the ball, the whole team is defending, while when in possession of the ball, the whole team is attacking. In this way, attack starts in defence, and defence starts in attack.
AFC Unity runs campaigns and projects alongside football, including the Football for Food campaign, which begun in 2015, and the Unity for All campaign. Solidarity Soccer is both football and a campaign – it is a community session providing high quality football coaching in an informal and friendly way. In its history AFC Unity has been recognised with several awards, some of which acknowledge the positive impact of these projects:
Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA’s Grassroots Project of the Year Award 2019
Sports Personality Award at the South Yorkshire LGBT+ Awards 2017
FA Club Respect Award 2015/2016
Bronze in Sport England’s Satellite Club of the Year Awards 2016
Runners-up in the Most Innovative Organisation category at the Voluntary Action Sheffield Make a Difference Awards 2016
In light of the coronavirus pandemic AFC Unity did not enter the 2020-2021 league. This led to significant changes at the club: players who desired the competitive aspect of football moved on to new clubs, Jay Baker stepped down as Head Coach and the Board of Directors reduced in size as individuals moved on from the club. AFC Unity now offers socially distanced Solidarity Soccer sessions each week.