More than passion: the community club
Founded in 1946, Wythenshawe Amateur Football Club has long played a vital role in the community of South Manchester. Initially founded by a local window cleaner, with kickabouts held in the street, and meetings with parents conducted in wooden huts, today it has its own clubhouse after over £1m has been spent on its construction and upkeep.
After tireless fundraising from Chairman Carl Barratt, in 2017 the club was finally able to open the much needed facility after a period of not having a home and bouncing from pitch to pitch for games. Even fierce Premier League rivals Manchester United and Manchester City both came out and publicly supported the need for the club to have its own facilities so there was a home for all the sides, which stretch across men’s, juniors, girls and women’s teams. “I think passion is an understatement because you need more than passion to run a football club,” says Barratt who has been at the club for 17 years, since taking on his son’s team to manage. A period he calls “the best days of my life.”
As a community owned and ran organisation, the club is of course integral to local people. But this is a two-way street – there is a pride behind the club, with attendance at games on the rise. “To see kids as young as four wearing our shirts and colours as supporters is incredibly rewarding,” Barratt says. “At our clubhouse, I see neighbours from all around the area – this is a central point that brings them all together.” Despite lockdown shutting down games, the feeling of community spirit and engagement has remained high. “The amount of support that we’ve had during lockdown has been phenomenal,” Barratt says. “You cannot underestimate the power of the community. I’m a local lad and I could move away but I don’t because I love the community – it’s especially strong in Wythenshawe.”
Aside from the clear benefits of community cohesion, the club also provides enormously for the health and wellbeing of the people in the area. “I cannot stress the importance of sport enough,” says Barratt. “It’s so important for kids. I think it’s essential that there are people like us around because it gives both parents and kids the opportunity to get exercise. The mental health and social benefits are also fantastic on top of the health and fitness, which is absolutely essential.”
Despite the club’s ongoing gains and milestones, with nearly 40 teams playing under the club, there are still plans to move forward and expand. “I plan for the club to have 60 teams within the next five years,” says Barratt. “With a real focus and priority on girls and disabled football. After having a break due to lockdown, you can sense the excitement of people wanting to get back out there on the pitch and we want to offer that for everyone.”