Field AFC Ladies: Bouncing back with an invincible season

Field AFC Ladies: Bouncing back with an invincible season

In mid-May, Field AFC Ladies sealed the West Riding County Women’s Football League Third Division title, eight points ahead of their nearest rivals and undefeated over the season. That alone would be reason enough for any team to celebrate. But the Bradford-based club’s achievement is even more remarkable in light of its recent history. 

Wind back the clock to the end of the 2021-22 season and the team, then playing in the Second Division under the banner of another club, were forced to dissolve. With most existing players on board, co-managers Jess Mallison and Julia Hogan decided to build a new team, and Field AFC Ladies was born. However reaffiliating under a new name triggered a demotion from the second to the fourth division.

Remarkably, two consecutive promotions later, the club will be back to playing in the second tier of West Riding women’s football next season. Part of this is undoubtedly down to the pedigree of the co-managers. Julia is a very experienced player and now coaches at the Leeds United Foundation, while Jess played for Bradford City from the age of seven, went through the Leeds United Academy and was scouted for England at the age of 16.



Doing it right on and off the pitch

 But Jess is quick to point out that Field Ladies are far more than just a successful team on the pitch. They like to do things differently both on and off the field, which means winning isn’t the only thing that matters. She says:

“I’ve got lifelong friends from football. Those friendships are so deep because of the experiences you had together. We want to build a team that replicates what we had when we were growing up, letting people build those experiences.”

Part of that is the club’s attitude to players, whose ages range from 16 to 43. As Jess says:

 “We have a lot of people who played at a higher level in their younger days and have been pushed out as they got older. We don’t say ‘we won’t look at you because you might only have one season left’. We say, ‘come and play for us for that one season and you’ll have a new friendship group when you decide to retire’. We’ve built a reputation of not turning our back on players.”

 Field is different in other ways as well. The club is run entirely by women – with the exception of the club secretary – making it somewhat unique in the area. They also strive to make playing football affordable for everyone, with the lowest ‘subs’ of all clubs in Bradford.


A ‘special’ club

 But it’s the ‘family’ theme that comes through most, an ethos that is expressed in practical ways. Jess gives several examples:

 “We’ve put things in place for players who were victims of domestic violence, and we’ve raised money for cancer research on behalf of a player’s brother who was struck down by cancer. We’ve had three babies born to players and they have their own kits. Last year we gave the charity Mind a free space on our shirt sleeves to raise awareness of mental health issues.

“We really make it a family thing – there’s so much that’s special about this club and I’m really passionate about it. Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done! I don’t have a life outside football, but then I see what we’ve achieved. The club is such a family.”

 Jess says Field is “just a special club”, and clearly the community agrees. Local business Regal Foods have sponsored Fields since the club was started, and Jess describes Absar Younis, a member of the company’s founding family, as “the most community-spirited guy I have ever known.” As well as the team, he has sponsored individual players and even paid for the food at the end of season awards. Jess says: “He’s an example of what grassroots football needs.”

 All of which shows that grassroots clubs, who can’t offer their sponsors the national exposure generated by the football giants, can attract financial support by being positive contributors to their local communities.


Community and Kappa – working together

 As for the relationship with Kappa, who provide home and away kits as well as tracksuits, Jess has only positive words. She says that their kit, created via the Kappa Kit Builder platform, has attracted “nothing but compliments all season.” 

 The phrase ‘football family’ is tossed around all-too freely, but Field Ladies is a club that lives out that ideal in everything they do. And Kappa (UK) is proud to be associated with them.