Burnley FC in the Community’s Walking Football programme continues to go from strength to strength with record numbers enjoying the weekly recreational sessions.
One participant who has benefitted from the sessions, keeping her love affair with football alive is Anne.
Anne has taken part in walking football since BFCitC started delivering the session in 2016, after seeing an advert in the local newspaper. A regular attendee ever since, she has been involved in 172 sessions and played in numerous friendly fixtures and tournaments over the three years.
With more males participating in walking football, Anne is an advocate of the women’s game, championing female sports participation in the North West for over 45 years.
Having never taken a break and being involved in the sport in some capacity for almost 50 years, football has played a big part in Anne’s life. Starting her playing career with Preston North End Ladies, she was also a founding player of the original Burnley FC Ladies set up, so the Clarets have always been close to her heart!
As a goalkeeper she won the North West Women’s League for Bronte Ladies, and she played at the top of the English women’s game during her playing career.
After hanging up her boots as a player, Anne took it upon herself to promote the women’s game in the North West region by becoming the first FA qualified female coach in 1985.
Anne said: “I gave up my job in the 1980’s to retrain at Accrington and Rossendale College, gaining sports qualifications, this allowed me to work within the leisure industry.
“I wanted to promote and create opportunities for girls and women, raising awareness of the game in the North West, as there was nothing at all available. Socially it wasn’t the norm, not even at school.
“In 1989 I started to work as a Sports Development Officer for Blackburn and Darwen Council where my responsibility was to develop footballing opportunities for females in the area. This included organising an annual Darwen girls football tournament, establishing the first ladies’ team in Blackburn, Blackburn Rangers and planning Reebok 5s junior girls’ and boys’ tournaments.
“My job role changed to Festival & Events Officer in 2005 and the brilliant opportunity to work with the FA and UEFA promoting the Women’s European Championship which was held in the North West, came up. I worked with the FA to promote the event and create opportunities for girls and women to participate. England Ladies were among the teams involved and over 20,000 attended the final at Ewood Park.”
In 2012, Anne was nominated by her daughter and successfully selected to be a torch bearer for the London Olympics, for dedicating her life to developing women’s sport in the Lancashire area. The fantastic honour was recognised by the London organising committee of the Olympic and Paralympic games.
Participating in BFCitC’s walking football programme, Anne has been able to play the game she loves outfield as opposed to the goalkeeper position of her playing days.
“I love being part of the walking football sessions at BFCitC. The sessions have allowed me to relive my younger days where I can play the sport I love for fun, in a relaxed atmosphere where winning isn’t everything, I’ve met new friends and felt the health benefits from regular participation.”
Through the sessions Anne took part in the People’s FA Cup last year.
“Being part of the sessions at BFCitC I was able to take part in the People’s FA Cup, a dream of any English football fan. At the event, I met up with old work colleagues I hadn’t seen in years. Another example of walking football bringing people back into the game.”
Even now, Anne isn’t just a walking football participant, she currently heads up Accrington Stanley Girls and Ladies’ Football Club, overseeing the development of women’s football for Accrington Stanley.
“Walking football is for all, give it a go. Score great goals, make friends, have good fun, it’s easy to play and keeps you active. Take part! Just do it!”
To find out more about BFCitC’s walking football sessions click here.