This International Women’s Day (IWD), FC United would like to shine a light on some of the women and FC United Women’s team players who make up our club. The theme for the 2021 IWD is ‘Choose to Challenge’: everyone choosing to challenge and call out inequality when we come across it. Following on from FC United recently signing Kick It Out’s Equality Charter (read about that here), we have spoken to Viv Ware, our Club, Company and Matchday Secretary and Chris Boulderstone, Club Welfare Officer about their experiences of being women in their respective roles at a non-league club. We also hear from FC United Women’s Team players Kirsty Chambers (captain) and Cara Fields about their experiences being part of FC United Women and playing in women’s football in general.
Viv Ware: FC United Club, Company and Matchday Secretary
Firstly, we spoke to Viv Ware who plays a key role in the day to day running of the club as Club and Company Secretary, and on matchdays as our Matchday Secretary, taking
over the latter role from John England:
“In my day-to-day role, I have come across other women in significant roles in football at our level, such as the Northern Premier League General Manager Angie Firth, registrations staff at the FA and other female club secretaries, so I’ve always felt the opportunities are there for women. Secretaries from other clubs have been very supportive, and this has been really welcome. In some ways it is to be expected that there are fewer women in certain roles around men’s football, but this is changing slowly and as long as the environment is right there is no reason why more women can’t get involved.”
Looking to the future, Viv is hopeful that more women will become involved in all areas of the club:
“I’m positive about the future, I hope more young women know they can be involved in the club in whatever role they choose. I would personally love to be able to have a part in involving more young women. I think women can bring a different perspective and a different dynamic to things. There’s definitely a place for everyone who wants to be involved at our club and in the wider non-league community. I’ve come to learn that whatever your role is, it is important to feel that you can contribute and be heard. There are many confident female trailblazers in the game who are paving the way for more women to get involved. It was great to have Alex Scott at the ground for the Doncaster game but equally I am pleased that we have a good number of female stewards at our club as well as other members of staff and volunteers. And not forgetting my colleague Hannah Gorman who works on the finance side of the club. Change will come, it’s inevitable, so there is a lot to be positive about.”
Chris Boulderstone: Club Welfare Officer
Next we hear from Club Welfare Officer Chris Boulderstone, who has been in her role and involved with the club since its inception in 2005:
“I’m really pleased that I’m in the role of Club Welfare Officer. I had experience of child protection from some of my previous job roles so I’m glad I can bring those skills to the club. Over the years, I have had to report a few issues to the FA and I’ve worked with Kick It Out and the police on a few occasions since 2005. My role also entails delivering welfare training to the men’s first team and the women’s team so they know what they can and can’t do on social media. We are also looking into delivering this for the Academy and the disability team. We have equality, anti-discrimination and child welfare policies that we review and update each year, it’s a welcome addition to have signed up to the Kick It Out Charter too. I’m also responsible for getting DBS documents for anyone that comes into contact with young people or vulnerable adults.”
Chris also runs the ball crew and has been responsible for being a starting point to getting girls involved with the club from a young age:
“Everyone is encouraged to be ball crew if they want to get involved. Each junior member receives a birthday card every year, and on their 8th birthday I put a note in asking if they’d like to join ball crew. Some of them can barely wait until they’re 8! Quite a few of the girls who came in as ball girls have gone on to be involved in different areas of the club now they are adults, for example Nicola works behind the bar, Chantal is in the comms team and Taylor helps on the juniors sweet stall. If we get them involved at a young age and make them feel part of it then they are more likely to stay when they get older. I’ve also seen many of the mums get involved because their children are involved in our events, for example sometimes they’ll come along to our annual bowling event and enjoy it then they come along with their children on matchdays. I also have mums ringing me up asking if they can help at our Christmas and Easter parties. The events we hold and ball crew really do encourage girls and women to get involved in the club”
Chris explains how she has sometimes felt at an advantage being a woman in her role:
“Because I’ve been around for so long people know me, and people see me as approachable which is really important, especially when you’re leaving children in our care. Being approachable also helps when people have problems, they feel like they can come to me with them. I get along well with everyone and don’t discriminate, but if I do come across any issues I just raise them with that person and I’m not afraid to stand up for myself. Though we have many women volunteers at our club, I would love to see more women on the board. Women are so important at football clubs and we need more involved to break attitudes. Maybe one day one of our young women who has grown up through the juniors or the ball crew will join the board, I’d love that!”
FC United Women's Team
Kirsty Chambers (captain)
Next, we hear from representatives from FC United’s Women’s team. First, we hear from Kirsty Chambers, who is our women’s team captain and has been part of the team for 9
years, since its inception:
“From me being young football has always been a massive part of my life. It was difficult when I was younger, I had so many opportunities with academies and centre of excellences but due to transport issues I struggled to travel to trials etc but I believe everything happens for a reason and joining FC women’s team has been one of the most memorable moments of my life! The club has become a big part of my life, it’s not only my football team, it’s my extended family. It’s helped me overcome a lot of personal experiences. Since joining FC United’s Women’s team in 2012 the women’s side of things has grown massively and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to be a part of it all. From playing on the fields at the back of Broadhurst Park to now going into the stadium with the team, it’s an amazing achievement for the club and FC United have given the women’s team great opportunities for us to play in the stadium and share that with the men’s team. I feel like there have been a few challenges along the way, but it’s never been anything the club haven’t been able to solve. For the level we are at within the women’s pyramid we are definitely a team that are extremely lucky to have the facilities we have. As a team, we want to push the women’s game to high levels, we want to take the team as high as we can and I know we have the support of the club in our success and further goals. From the fans, the volunteers, the staff & the players, FC is just an incredible club to be involved with and not one person is there for themselves, we are in it all together.”
Finally, we hear from FC United Women’s Team player Cara Fields (who identifies as non-binary), who delivered a powerful speech in Broadhurst Park during Black
History Month (see that here), who talks about growing up in women’s football and their experiences as an adult:
“To me, women’s football has been one of the most influential movements in recent years from both a societal and a personal perspective. Although I’m only 24, the women’s game has progressed massively since I started playing and it’s been a pleasure to watch the game develop and grow into what it is today. Despite having a long way to go, I think it’s important to appreciate the positive steps that have been made so far. It’s a family focused sport that has inspired so many young girls and shown the younger generation of women that the future for women’s sports is heading in the right direction - where it should be!
For me, I started off my career at Manchester United Centre of Excellence when I was 13 years old. Although the club didn’t have an open age first team, the academy still ensured we trained at the best facilities, with the best coaches and opportunities. It was an incredible club to start off at - they taught me respect, discipline, and confidence as both a player and a person. I played there for 4 seasons and when I turned 17, I signed for Manchester City’s Development Squad. At the time the club was going through a transformation phase from grassroots to full time professional, so it was interesting to see how the club has grown into one of the biggest clubs in women’s football within just a few seasons… I even went on a pre-season tour with the first team in my 2nd second so to train alongside the likes of Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Tony Duggan, it was a unbelievable experience for me as a young player - being around such a professional environment really helped me mature as a player and I owe a big part of my ability to playing for those 2 clubs.
I’ve played for FC United for the past 4 years now and it’s been one the best club environments I’ve been at. Especially in a women’s team, the togetherness and friendship within a squad is special. We all come from similar backgrounds and have a mutual understanding and respect for how much dedication and hard work is required to balance football, work and a social life - which I think is often overlooked and not appreciated enough in the women’s game. However at FC, for the league and level we compete at, the support and assistance from the club and the men’s side is fantastic and in my opinion a better standard than other women’s teams in higher leagues. From playing in the stadium to sharing our social media posts and promoting the women’s team, FC have found a good balance and continue to push forward in their support for women’s football.
Although I cannot speak highly enough of the teams I have played at and the fantastic opportunities I’ve had through my experiences, I do believe everything the women’s game in general has received is still the bare minimum. To play in good quality facilities, with qualified coaches and referees; to receive kit and be given the same respect as men is how it should be and I do not believe that deserves special recognition or praise.
There are many underlying components to why Women’s football is still viewed as “inferior” compared to its male counterparts - I think this is largely down to lack of equal opportunities, funding, marketing and various other aspects that places women’s football at a disadvantage. This has to change. The way we teach and educate the younger generation to view and perceive women in sports must change. How we refuse to acknowledge the sexist attitudes and issues that are still prevalent towards women’s sport must change. And as I’ve witnessed myself in recent years, I hope the positive steps that are slowly being implemented by the FA and other footballing organisations will continue to act as a driving force for women’s football until it’s shown the respect it’s deserves. And fingers crossed one day, women’s football will simply be seen as ‘football’."