Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Bristol Rovers Women’s Co-Founder and Club Secretary, Matthew Davies looks back on what has been a difficult yet prosperous year for the ‘Gas Girls’. With leagues cancelled, National Awards, exciting new arrivals and the massive growth of our development off the pitch, it’s been an interesting 2020 for a club that focuses on community, education, participation and performance.
Football is vitally important to everyone’s mental and physical health. Whether you’re a player or a supporter, 2020 has shown us that the beautiful game is a vitally integral part of our culture and our lives. However, it goes without saying that there is no substitute for the health and safety of our friends, family and communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many peoples lives and we all hope that 2021 will greet us with more positive news for everyone.
As for the ‘Gas Girls’ it’s been a year of growth and development, despite the disappointing news that our inaugural season was declared null & void in March as a result of the first lockdown in March. The girls racked up a 100% record, with one more win needed to seal the title in our first season. Receiving that email from the FA to officially confirm this news was unbelievably deflating, especially after all of the work that the team put in since our launch. However, it was totally understandable considering the situation at the time.
Drafting and writing that message to send to all of our players across the first-team and development squad was a difficult one. Despite the disappointment, I was thrilled with the response and the desire to come back even stronger for 2020/21.
Lockdown gave us the opportunity to prepare for the eventual return and develop our links within the community. I was delighted to welcome the Bristol Women’s Football Casual League into the family as an official partner back in May. The participation-based league has a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere and fully incorporates our values as a club. We were thrilled to have them as guests during pre-season for a friendly against our Development Team. Something I’m sure we’ll be doing again.
Our new community partnerships continued to grow with the official link with Bristol Pride in September. The LGBTQ+ Charity and Festival aims to tackle discrimination and homophobia within our communities, something that obviously we fully support. I had some fantastic discussions with the team at Bristol Pride and the launch of the special edition away kit was incredible. The response from ‘Gas Heads’ and members within the community was massive and will soon be on display at The National Football Museum next year. Little did we know that a design that myself and fellow co-founder Nathan Hallett-Young put together over Zoom during Lockdown would get the extensive coverage and sales as it has. We have some plans in the pipeline to continue our work together which we hope to announce in the new year. Pending the developments of Covid-19 of course.
The summer also graced us with the news that socially distanced pre-season could return, to the delight of all our players and staff. It was also a time to celebrate everybody’s efforts since our launch in 2019. In August and to my complete shock, I received a surprise Zoom call from Chelsea and England International, Fran Kirby, who announced that Bristol Rovers Community Trust and Bristol Rovers Women’s had won ‘The Best Community Football Development Initiative’ at the FA Women’s & Girls Awards. Since the launch of the ‘Gas Girls’ project, we have seen a dramatic increase in participation figures across the free football sessions that we host during term-time and a huge rise in applications for the BTEC education programme that gives girls the opportunity to take their first steps into working within the sports industry. To receive a national award such as this was indeed and incredible honour.
As preparations were being made for our return to competitive football, we were delighted to welcome some new volunteers as part of our coaching staff. Paul Mason was brought on-board as our club fitness coach and was a huge part of our successful lockdown programmes. As a fully qualified personal trainer, Paul is able to offer advice and prepare individual sessions for our girls. Javier Gorodi is a hugely welcome asset to our club as our analyst. His expertise in this area has given our players and coaching staff some extra insight into individual and team performances. His work has already seen benefits across the club. Debbie Philips has not only joined us as a match secretary but also a mental health first-aider. Mental health is something that we all take seriously here at the ‘Gas Girls’ and having Debbie as part of the team has been a huge step for us to make sure that the girls have the support that they need.
All of this couldn’t be done without the continued support from our friends, partners and sponsors. Bristol Rovers Supporters Club have been incredibly generous from day one and its so encouraging for us to see that everyone shares our vision going forward. A huge thanks to Brunel, Lockleaze Sports Centre, Ahimsa Yoga Bristol, Bristol 24/7, Crossed Swords, Bristol Pride & the Bristol Women’s Casual League.
We now have a brand-new website which was launched at the start of the season, which includes information about every aspect of the club and what we do within the community. You can also sign up to our online supporters club, where you can keep you up to date on everything ‘Gas Girls’ related.
I hope that you had a great Christmas and here’s hoping for a Gastastic 2021!