Impetus is proud to have entered into an official partnership with Eastern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division side Wroxham Women. The partnership includes sponsorship of new signing Harriet Meers and monthly behind the scenes features on the club.
To help launch the partnership, Ben Gilby spoke to Wroxham Women’s manager Rebecca Burton and club media officer, Darrell Allen.
Despite Wroxham Women being a relatively new name on the circuit – the club only came into being in 2019 – their roots go back a lot further, as manager Rebecca Burton identifies, with the club previously known as Acle United: “The journey began at Acle United, really as a bunch of friends playing football recreationally. Due to playing history, the team attracted more players from the same circle and improved in quality over the course of a few seasons – eventually becoming very competitive in the county of Norfolk. Acle won the Norfolk Women’s Cup, county and regional promotions & The Eastern Region Women’s Football League Cup; and having started to attract players from higher teams and different areas of the region, came extremely close to promotion to the FA Women’s National League on more than one occasion.”
“We were lucky to have our fabulous volunteers such as Richard and Bob behind us during our time at Acle and despite the entire squad and staff changing over the years, these two are still here and with us at Wroxham to date. In short, we knew we needed to be part of a higher level club, with the facilities and backing to enable us to push on – we were always punching above our weight as a village team and by moving across to Wroxham we aligned ourselves with a regional and historically successful club that would give us the springboard to progress.”
With Wroxham remaining as one of the Eastern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division’s top sides, I asked both Darrell and Rebecca for their opinion on the league.
“It is a fantastic division and is even more competitive than ever before in 2020/2021, with a golden prize at the end of it of playing FA Women’s National League Football, said Darrell.
“We consider ourselves to be one of the best teams in the league but we know better than anyone that it is still a division where anybody can beat anybody on their day. It is the hardest division in women’s football to get out but we will do everything in our power to do so as quickly as we can.”
Rebecca agreed: “Darrell’s right in that it’s a really competitive league, which is great – but it’s so difficult to get out of… I know from experience! And one thing I’d like to see is more opportunity for teams to push on, maybe via end of season play offs with parallel leagues or something which would give teams something to play for right to the end of the campaign. I’d personally say the league doesn’t get enough credit for the standard of the teams and some of the players playing in it – many who ‘drop down’ suddenly realise that the only difference in some teams in this league compared to the league above is backing and consistency.”
Wroxham clearly have ambitions to rise into the FA Women’s National League and stay there in the not too distant future. The club manager explained: “It’s not just our aim, it’s the club’s ambition for its Senior Women’s Team to be playing National League football sooner rather than later. As I said above, backing and consistency is key and realistically the basic foundation – you need a club that values progression of the women’s game, facilities, and a pull to recruit talent. It’s not a coincidence that some of the competitive names in our league, as well as most of the league above, are linked to at least National League clubs. Then you need the commitment on and off the pitch from the players and staff too.
In terms of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has impacted on the club, it was a period of frustration for the Norfolk side: “Like any club the first lockdown was a massive blow and it was shame we were not able to complete the 2019/20 season,” said Darrell, “but we started our preparations for 2020/2021 early with players doing individual training from early June and squad sessions began as soon as permitted in late July. Rebecca Burton made some wonderful signings to give us the best opportunity to go for promotion this season, and I know she’s on a recruitment drive once again. We are certainly very excited about what lies ahead in 2021.”
Both Rebecca and Darrell agree that last year’s Women’s World Cup produced benefits which were felt in Norfolk too: “One of the biggest benefits of the World Cup is the impact it’s having on the next generation,” Rebecca said.
“Our female youth set up, Bure Valley Wildcats YFC has grown exponentially over the past 18 months, and we really hope that our partnership with them, announced earlier this season, will help to inspire more young girls to take up football. And when it comes to financial support, I can only assume the momentum of the World Cup is still there, as we’ve done well sponsorship wise despite a pandemic hitting over the off season. It’s brilliant that businesses continue to support us and we’re really grateful for their generosity. We always need support though, so if you’d like to sponsor something or someone please get in touch!”
Darrell identified that “the Women’s World Cup has increased the profile of the club in the local media certainly, BBC Radio Norfolk gave us some great coverage last season following the World Cup and this only helps us with regards to exposure. It helps our crowds to the point we are pushing 100 for most home games this season and the interest in women’s football in the county has certainly gone up greatly since the World Cup. It was only a positive for all local clubs not just ourselves.”
Apart from coronavirus, Rebecca highlights finances as the biggest challenge that the club face at present: “Like with most clubs, finances are always a challenge, the costs incurred especially on away games are large, and it takes us several thousand pounds a season to operate. This was harder in the past, having to hire facilities and not having the presence in the county when it came to gaining sponsorship – however we’re really fortunate to have great backing at Wroxham and a fantastic home ground with a growing fan base. We’ve worked tirelessly to be in a position to offer free football to all of our players, along with providing kit, merchandise and other perks. I’m a big believer in having a strong basis and setting the right standard in order to attract the level of players needed to compete.”
One of the biggest strengths at Wroxham is the relationship between the club’s men’s and women’s sides. “From my point of view, it’s something that I think is quite special and we’re fortunate to have something that a lot of female teams at our level could only wish for, said Rebecca.
“It’s not just about men’s and women’s at Wroxham, we have a club philosophy on and off the pitch, a playing DNA that runs through to the junior teams, a coach education programme accessible across all age groups and levels, a growing regional development phase competing in the Eastern Junior Alliance (EJA), an U18’s team producing the next generation of first teamers, a new female pathway, and central hub in Trafford Park that has such a genuine atmosphere of unity and home. The buzz about the club is real, and it’s contagious, and it truly is brilliant to be a part of.”
Darrell is equally ebullient about the relationship between Wroxham’s men’s and women’s teams: “It is outstanding, both clubs get on superbly well, Wroxham’s volunteers are the best in the county and they spend the whole week making Trafford Park look superb and still give up their Sunday afternoon to watch the women’s team.”
“The fans come to watch both men’s and women’s games and the backing we get is truly special, the club go out of their way to promote us on social media also and we try as best we can to return the same coverage. It is a great partnership that will only grow stronger and that’s thanks to having great people like Rebecca Burton, Lee Robson, Rachel and Louise Cole and Adrian Gowling who really want the best for both clubs.”
The development route for players at Wroxham Women is not only strong, but it is very clear for girls to potentially be part of the system from the age of five all the way through to the first team, as Rebecca explains:
“We have a partnership with Bure Valley YFC who have girls’ teams from Wildcats (5-11’s) up to the age of U15, and it’s a great system for girls to come through. The club has grown massively over the past eighteen months and it’s still on the lookout for players, so there’s ample opportunity for girls in the area to get involved.
“We recognise the need for youth development and home-grown players coming through, so it’s great to be able to work with one of the fastest growing and most forward thinking girls’ set ups in the county. The partnership aims to provide a fun and inclusive environment for girls to enjoy football, as well as a pathway for development and progression. Next season we hope to increase the amount of youth teams further, as well as launch a Wroxham Women’s Development Squad, which will enable a smoother transition from youth to adult and grassroots to regional football.”
All of the outstanding work being done at Wroxham is down to a band of volunteers and the club feel exceptionally fortunate indeed to have the team that they have working behind the scenes.
“Someone like Richard Giles, our club secretary is a prime example,” Darrell identifies, “This man does everything to make sure the club are compliant with all regulations and guidelines and is a big part of our jigsaw and why we are so good at we do. Without a good support staff team you can’t achieve anything and we are very lucky to have Richard in our camp, he is also an encyclopaedia of knowledge on women’s football. There is nothing he doesn’t know.”
Rebecca Burton also greatly recognises the club’s band of volunteers: “I’d agree with everything Darrell has said, but also add him to that! Since coming in he’s worked tirelessly in supporting our social media presence, has added a new dimension to us as a team and is brilliant at reminding me when I’ve forgotten things! I’d also like to shout out to Rachel and Louise who are just fabulous, and are absolute legends at Wroxham Football Club. They provide the best post-match food in the league including our Christmas dinner the weekend just gone.”
Rebecca identifies “Commitment, passion, support, visibility, and difference makers” as the keys to success at the club. Darrell believes that the togetherness of players and supporters is also a big part of what makes Wroxham who they are: “Success can be down to happy players, a positive vibe and a manager who believes in developing players and getting the best out of them. We certainly have this at Wroxham. The Blue Wave Band are also adding an incredible atmosphere to our games and we are incredibly grateful for their support.”
The club media officer ended our chat by outlining the club’s potential over the next five years: “I believe we can get promoted and stay in the FA Women’s National League and I see absolutely no reason why that won’t be achieved. For the wider women’s game, simply, I believe that the sport will only get stronger over the next five years and you will see greater coverage locally and nationally.”
You can see information about our other sponsorships and partnerships by visiting: https://impetus885775742.wordpress.com/partnerships/