Beth Barnes promoting inclusivity with Alternative Football League

Beth Barnes Award winnerCo-founded by the University’s Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health PhD student Beth Barnes, the Alternative Football League (AF League) is the North West’s only fully inclusive football league for women, non-binary and transgender individuals.

 AF League have three leagues across Manchester and Liverpool with 30 teams and over 400 players. They aim to use football as a platform to improve the mental health of women and non-binary people throughout the UK with their very own mental health and inclusivity workshops.

Beth was inspired to start this project because of the profound impact being a player in the first season of the AF League had on her own mental health. She knew that she could grow the league and provide more excluded players with a safe, welcoming space to play football and really focus on player mental health. Since becoming co-founder of the AF League, she has set up and continues to co-ordinate the North Manchester and Liverpool leagues, as well as their initiatives to help those from low financial backgrounds access football and also our mental health workshop which is in development.

The main impact from the project has been the number of players they’ve helped to access football who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. Whether this be because of gender identity, age, lack of experience, financial background or just confidence. They’ve had players who have said the league has been life-changing, and even life-saving, for them. It means so much to Beth to be able to help these incredible people.

 Earlier this year, Beth scored a Making a Difference Award with AF League. See Beth’s short interview for the Manchester Evening News at the Awards:

We asked her a few questions about her project and what winning this Award means to her:

 Tell us about how it felt to win a Making a Difference Award

“I felt incredibly proud to win the Making a Difference Award, because I really do believe that the AF League makes a difference in those 400+ players’ lives. It also felt quite surreal to think about how much the AF League has grown in just over a year and exciting to consider the potential of how far we could go in the future. The Making a Difference Award has already helped my project through some of the wonderful people I met on the night who heard about AF and want to work with us.”

Is there any one you’d like to thank?

“I’d like to say thank you to my co-founder, Helen, for sharing the AF League with me and trusting me as I lead the AF League in my own way. I’d also like to thank my PhD supervisors, Simon Hubbard and Martin Baron, for supporting me with the AF League even though it’s nothing to do with my PhD and can sometimes take lots of time and energy.”

What advice would you offer to anyone considering entering the Making a Difference Awards?

 “Just do it! The experience has been brilliant from finding out I was shortlisted, to hearing the AF League being talked about on the big screen in Whitworth Hall.”

So what is next for you?

“I will be completing the development of AF League’s mental health and inclusivity workshop. This will hopefully be accessible to all women’s football teams across the UK to make them a more inclusive space that can support the wellbeing of their players and local communities.”

Watch this short video to find out more about the Alternative Football League.