By Iraz Akkus
With a history of unstable membership levels and fear for the society’s survival, LSE Women’s Football Club (WFC) has not had an easy succession from year-to-year. However, after interviewing three committee members, Vivien Equestre (President), Maddie Osborn (Vice President) and Ana Van Der Ree (Secretary), it is evident that there has been immense progression within the club. This growth owes its stability and success to both the dedication and genuine love from its members, and the pivotal changes in the international scene for women’s football.
Looking through a global lens, the recent environment for women’s football has been a forceful factor in inspiring more girls to show up and give WFC Soc a go. The two major events, the Euros in 2022 and the 2023 Women’s World Cup, gave a platform for England’s ‘Lionesses’ to showcase their skills as a leading footballing nation. Their success winning the Euros last year and becoming runners-up in the World Cup this summer sparked mass media recognition, inspiring a new generation of female footballers. The club has been capitalising on this growth and incorporating it within the society to keep up the spike in interest, for example organising day trips to see women’s football matches at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
The club now has around 70 members, which means they will, for the first time ever, enter a second competitive girls team for matches. The girls explained that this growth is not only from new LSE freshers and postgraduates, but rather girls who had previously been in other societies such as Hockey and Lacrosse. For example, Ana started her LSE sports journey as a Netball member up until her second year, but as WFC became more structured, she explained that, “it was a better fit for [her],” adding that, “the culture here is just super inclusive, there is no pressure to be a certain way or show up as someone other than yourself.”.
Alongside this success, the club will see the introduction of an event membership (meaning you can join the socials and not play football) for only £30. The small, nuclear family atmosphere of a few years ago has expanded exponentially with the team even managing to build wholesome, inter-year traditions. For example, building bonds between freshers, second/third years and even alumni; referring to freshers as “baby freshers”, second and third-years as “sisters”, and alumni as “grannies.” Vivien further described a mentor-mentee relationship between first and third years that extends beyond the football pitch, creating what feels like a supportive extended family.
Internally, the club has also seen an improvement in organisation over the last few years. This includes having more regular and accessible training – which by the way isn’t a hundred miles away in Berrylands but in Islington – and varied socials that don’t revolve around drinking. To cater to all their members’ interests, the team alternates between drinking then non-drinking related activities, like pizza dinners, creating an approachable and comforting culture. In fact, this extends to more than just undergraduates as the society boasts a very even split of under and postgraduate ratios.
Moreover, the team does not shy away from supporting important social causes. A recent example can be seen within their Rainbow Laces sale for Stonewall in support of National Coming Out day. The laces sold out in three and a half hours, being supported by their counterparts in Men’s FC and other prominent societies – raising over £140. This initiative was started last year by Teresa Petralia (President of WFC 2022) during pride week.
The team have also exercised immense effort to become a financially sustainable society, having budgeted incredibly well last year to have concrete funds for the 2023 term. However, Vivien states,“Kits, training grounds and expenses” all cost the club a significant amount and to keep the motivation high and be organisationally consistent, capital is key. Receiving this capital is dependent on SU funds and membership revenue, so there is certain anxiety surrounding budgeting for the year at the beginning of the academic term. This also reveals potential financial difficulties of growing from a small or medium size to a large society within the AU – a vicious cycle where SU funding depends on membership, but membership depends on an organised society, which in turn depends on how much funding a society is entitled to.
Last but not least, when I asked the girls what’s one thing they would want people to take away from this interview, they stressed “You don’t need to be good at football to play, everyone is welcome!”. Ending the interview in the most appropriate feeling of inclusivity that the society radiates in excess. If you’re looking to find your LSE sisterhood, look no further.