Impetus editor Ben Gilby spoke to AFC Wimbledon Women manager Kevin Foster about how the club have consolidated themselves as a top side in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East and what they need to do in order to make the step up to the third tier of the women’s game.
Kevin began our discussion by outlining the journey that women’s football has been on at AFC Wimbledon: “Over the past seven years, the ladies football team has been hugely supported and very successful, having risen through the leagues starting in the Greater London Leagues and now making the way to Division One South-East of the FA Women’s National League (tier four). Both the Dons Trust and Mike Richardson have helped sponsor the ladies with training and match venues and allowed the club to grow, whilst there is a group of volunteers now that make sure the ladies team have the support needed to continue to stay afloat.”
The Dons manager identifies two reasons for the club establishing itself as a serious player in the fourth level of the women’s football pyramid: “We have been built up a reputation in the community and local area of being a club that sets the standard both in terms of on the field and off, we aim to push an environment that is friendly fun and engaging, whilst making sure we have players that wish to compete and push at the highest level. In order to make the jump to the next level, we will need a bit of luck with injuries and on match days and the hope we can continue on the form we are on and we will be close. The issue though is that our league is very tight and extremely difficult to get out of with only one promotional spot. When we gathered ahead of this season, we put together the aim of continuing to develop and push themselves as far as they can go. We have no expectations currently and we encourage the players to play with that freedom, however the longer the season goes the more it will tell us where we are for a relatively new group together.”
For Foster, he feels the next challenge that the club need to face is building their supporter base: “We have one of the smallest followings in the league and it would be great if we could have more people coming down to support the club and girls.”
In order for AFC Wimbledon to continue their upward trajectory, Foster feels the real key for sustainable success is funding. “Whilst we are seeing a great rise in help and sponsorship at the top level, the hope is that trickles down and helps supports the other lower league clubs such as ourselves in the National League. Women’s football is massively on the rise, the participation levels, people that watch the female game and the level of coaching and management is continuing to grow. There is no reason why this shouldn’t continue to rise.”
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Ben Gilby is the editor of Impetus and has over fifteen years experience in voluntary media officer roles within the sports of Football and Rugby Union, has appeared on BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Norfolk sports shows several times and published the book ‘The Game: Tales From A Season Travelling Around The Rugby Union Grounds of South-East England’.