AFC Unity enter their fourth season and are still making Bala Sport their only choice for footballs and bibs.
Based in Sheffield, Unity aren’t just one of the few women’s teams to remain unattached to a men’s club. With their focus on female empowerment, engagement with the local community, and social justice, their ethos meant their all-female Board of Directors were keen to embrace Fairtrade footballs.
“Bala Sport links so well with AFC Unity because both show how football can be a powerful force for social change” says co-founder and first team player Jane Watkinson.
Having collected around 870kg of food donations for Sheffield’s food banks through their Football for Food campaign while promoting the importance of community, Unity have been keen to show that football can do some good locally as well as globally, and raise awareness of issues at the same time.
“I feel it’s important that you engage people through football first, then utilise the unifying power of the game to allow players to connect the dots and think for themselves” says AFC Unity manager Jay Baker. “We find we don’t have to be preachy about things; using Bala Sport balls has made our players and opponents alike think about where the footballs we all play with come from, and if we can all do some good with that.”
Added Jane: “Bala Sport use the power of the game loved so much around the world to highlight the importance and benefit of Fairtrade products that not only guarantee good working conditions but also help fund life changing social programmes in communities experiencing social and economic inequalities. This was important to us, and fits with our ethos.”
AFC Unity have been using Bala balls for several seasons now, and utilise different kinds for different events. “We tend to use different types of Bala Sport balls for each occasion” explained Jay. “For example, our training will feature one kind of ball, then our matches another, and we run community projects as well and while some of the balls are incredibly versatile, we still like to use different types for different occasions as some are more specifically designed for a particular surface than others, which is fantastic.” The team also use Bala bibs, and the manager can get a bit precious about his Bala water bottle, as well. “Oh yeah” he laughs. ˜I just like to keep everything consistent and also if I have a brand slapped on something, I prefer it to be a good one that I actually believe in and am proud to promote.”
Having played on the pitch with the balls on numerous occasions, Jane rates them highly: “The balls are top quality, and very well liked in the team. In addition, the service has always been of a really high standard, being helpful and giving us a quick turnaround of orders. What’s not to like.”
Jay agrees: “It’s sometimes very difficult to get quality alongside ethics, but we’ve found it with Bala Sport. Now we get to play football and make a difference while doing it, which is what we’re all about.”