THE involvement of women in football at all levels is rapidly increasing, particularly at junior level, and the management committee of the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL was delighted to join the growing trend by asking Gill Bowden to join the committee in 2019.
Gill was the first lady to join the management committee in its long history and she has made a quick impact in her new role.
Her path in amateur soccer is a great example for other women to follow as she outlined: “Despite having three brothers I only became interested in football in 1998 when my then four-year-old son Daniel began to train with Signol Athletic JFC.
“It was interesting to learn the history of the club which was founded by Anne Signol in 1980. Anne is a very prominent member of the local community owning the ‘The Signol Centre’ which is one of the longest established physiotherapy and acupuncture practices in the Stockport area.
“The club was born from Anne’s work at Stockport Infirmary treating asthmatic children to improve their lung capacity, treatment was only offered once a week so Anne offered daily sessions at ‘The Signol Community Centre’ for all the patients, the sessions were concluded weekly with a ‘kickabout’ in the local park and Signol Athletic JFC was born.
“When Danny was seven the club took all the boys to play in a tournament in Holland, by this point my husband Gordon was Assistant Manager of the team and I helped with collecting subs and team organisation as we both wanted to give back to the community as Anne had done and add to her legacy.
“Lots of fundraising occurred to help fund the trip and shortly after this I was asked to lead the Clubs social committee which organised many social functions and raised funds to help grow the club.
“Over the years we had Christmas discos, Sportsman’s Dinners, and our annual tournaments which were extremely popular with local teams and those from further afield. I became the Club Treasurer between 2012-2016 and as I am a Certified Accountant, my day job helped with this role.
“The 2009/10 season saw us as an Under 16 team and historically this would be our last year with Signol as they only provided for teams up to Under 16s, however, we didn’t want that to be the end of our Journey with Signol and Gordon successfully convinced the Club Committee to allow us to continue as an open age team and in 2011 we entered the L and C league.
“We chose the L and C as both Gordon and I had watched Daniel refereeing several matches and were impressed with the standard of teams and organisation of the League.
“We are still playing in the League as Signol Old Boys and it is still a family affair with both Danny and Gordon running the team with myself as Secretary and Treasurer.
“In 2019 the League approached me and asked if I would consider joining the committee to assist with managing Fulltime player statistics. I was honoured to be the first woman to join the committee and be a part of its long history and evolution and believe that I bring a different perspective to the meetings.
“I have been involved in football for over 20 years now and it is exciting to see progression over those years. In 1998 we didn’t have many girls’ football teams but today I see no barriers for any young girl wishing to play football.
“I draw parallels between the business world and football and diversity is one of football’s major challenges, everyone should be aware and accountable for their actions both on and off the pitch yet it does need to be driven right from the very top and the L and C are leading in this and I am proud to be part of this journey.”
L and C secretary Brian Davies added: “I recognised Gill’s excellent work with the Signol team, and invited her to join the league committee. I am delighted Gill agreed, and now in her second year in the role has made a real impact on the completion of team statistics, now running at over 90%.
“It is a real pleasure to see her volunteer considerable time to the league, club and family alongside a busy day job.”