Huddersfield Town Women FC’s chair Alison Bamforth has an exciting three to five-year plan to get the club promoted to the Championship.
Having taken over earlier this year from outgoing chairman David Mallin, Alison has some exciting ideas on where she wants to take the club.
She said: “I have a three to five-year plan where we become a stable Championship club. We want to perform consistently at that level and aim as high as we can. Obviously within that we also want to continue our family club ethos.”
Alison, 41, knows the difficulties in achieving her aim with the gulf in finances between the FA Women’s National League North, where Town play now, and the Championship. However, she’s ready to meet those challenges head on.
“We only want to go up if we are confident of having everything in place to stay up,” she said. “There are examples of clubs going up and not having the right finances in place and then collapsing and ending up in big trouble.
“I always joke about these multi-millionaires putting money into the men’s club and not being able to give us a tenner!
“I find the financial situation very frustrating. For example, in the FA Cup, the women get £25,000 for winning it, whilst the men get £1.2m. The thing is if Manchester City win the FA Cup £1.2m is nothing to them, whereas £1.2m to us would be astonishing and we could do so much with it.
“I just think that money could be redistributed down the league and some put into the early rounds of the women’s cup. I just find it all a bit frustrating, to be honest.”
Growing up in Barnsley Alison didn’t have the opportunity to play women’s football. However, she was always a very sporty child and followed football.
“I am a Barnsley fan for the men and obviously a Town fan for the women,” she said. “I grew up in Barnsley and then went to York University and lived there for 10 years. Then I moved to Hertfordshire and lived there for a while but missed Yorkshire so came back here four years ago.
“I have always followed Barnsley but there wasn’t much opportunity for girls to play football when I was a child so I ended up playing hockey and rounders.
“My dad used to go to the games when he was young. My uncle sponsored the club for a while and then I have a lot of cousins who are season ticket holders. We have also had club shareholders in our family back in the day so, yes, the club runs right through us.”
In men’s football Barnsley and Town have always had an interesting relationship. One game that signifies the bond between the two sides is the 2013 relegation dogfight where both sides were involved.
Both clubs spent at least the last day in a relegation spot, however with Luke Steele hanging onto the ball and the game becoming a non-contest, Peterborough United were sacrificed in the process and sent to League One. Alison remembers that day well.
She said: “That was one of many exciting moments I’ve watched Barnsley get involved in. I can assure you watching the Town ladies isn’t as nerve-wracking.
“There have been many seasons where it doesn’t matter where I’ve sat on the last day of the season, I keep constantly checking my phone to see if the other seven results have gone our way. We do tend to have our one year of glory ever so often.”
Once Alison moved back up to Yorkshire in 2017, she wanted to get involved with a group to make new friends. The Town Women proved to be the perfect platform for her.
“When we moved back to Yorkshire my partner Anton had gone to Huddersfield University so he knew lots of people around the town.
“I didn’t know anyone and so was looking for something to get into where I could meet new people. I went along to watch the Huddersfield Town Women’s junior side and I was so impressed at the standard I loved it.
“I started to go up to the club more and more and got involved. I helped with the trials and so on and volunteered with the junior set up. I also got involved with the club committee. I enjoy that sort of thing.
“When the pandemic hit and we were locked down, football at our level stopped. Then when things could resume we got sent a lot of guidance and regulations we needed to keep to. Every club needed to appoint a Covid-19 officer.
“I told David (Mallin) I would do it, so I did all the forms and became the club’s Covid-19 officer. That role then introduced me to all the teams, not just the juniors.
“I got to know much more about how the whole club operated through that role. I wouldn’t say doing the Covid role was exciting but it was one that needed doing and one I was happy to do.
“I wanted us to get back playing safely and get back to doing what we all loved but sticking to the rules.”
Having settled in at the club and become a key individual, and once the club’s committee knew David was stepping down as chairman, Alison was approached to take over.
“We knew the year before David had made his mind up to step down as chairman. He and a couple of the other committee members asked me about what my thoughts were on becoming the chair of the club.
“I said I had a lot to learn and I don’t have the contacts David does. David said he would be sticking around which he has and he’s been a great support in helping me to settle into the role.
“I am going to be an inclusive chair of the club. I want to make decisions which include various people at the club. I’m not here to be a dictator, I will certainly lead from the front though.”
Alison, who worked for a gas and boiler company and previously worked in technology for 20 years, is very keen to continue the positive conversations David Mallin was having with Town’s men’s club.
“We are hoping to carry on our good relationship with the Town men’s team,” she said. “Hopefully we can strengthen our commercial opportunities between the two clubs.
“I think there have been a few complications recently with the change of ownership and big changes in their staff. However, those conversations we are having will carry on.
“The one thing we have got from them is the use of the Canalside pitches. Having that quality, open, floodlit space makes a big difference to how we can train.
“We are in talks with the club over using the stadium to host another game there too. The last time we did, it was really successful and I’m sure it will be again.
“We also have a great relationship with the Town Foundation. We have been involved with kit launches and family fun days the charity holds. Our girls will be involved in the club’s half term kids’ holiday scheme too.”
Alison is very pleased with how the women’s game is developing but accepts more can be done.
“I think the women’s game has taken off and has now been given the respect it deserves although there is further we can go,” she said.
“I think the Olympics and the World Cups have certainly played their part in making women’s football attractive.
“We have got to a stage now where the women’s game is being advertised during the men’s games. You would never have thought that would be possible even 10 years ago.
“The women’s game has grown its own personality. Alex Scott has gone on to be a successful pundit and TV presenter.
“So whilst I agree there is still plenty to do we should look back on the achievements already made and say we are going in the right direction.
“Women’s football has a very friendly atmosphere, it’s one where the money hasn’t got a tight grip of the game.
“The other thing is if you look at the crowd for the women’s game, it is much more diverse than the men’s. There’s lots more children and families watching the women’s game.
“One thing I would like to see more of, is more women represented on clubs’ boards and committees as it’s still a male-dominated space. I’m sure the game will get there though.”
If anyone would like to volunteer for the club and get involved please contact Alison on: firstname.lastname@example.org