“In the Spotlight…. ” Bury FC Women Vets – December 2020.


Bury FC Women Vets was started up last year by Casey Lynchey and has gone from strength to strength.  Catering for women from 16 – 69+, who range from complete beginners to returners to the game, the Club now has over 100 members and 6 teams…and is still growing! Casey is a 44 year old primary school teacher and ex children’s football coach, originally from Edinburgh, who lives in Bury, Greater Manchester.

Carol Bates spoke to Casey, to find out more about BFCWV, how it all started and what drives her to involve more women to play Recreational and Walking Football.

CB:   You have done an incredible job growing your Club, how did it all come about?  Did you have any help or advice, or did you just have the idea and away you went?  

CL:   Thank you – the idea grew after I took part in EduFootyAid (a charity football match for teachers) last year. After the match, I posted on facebook to see if any of my friends fancied having a weekly kick about. Even the response to that initial post was incredible and on the first night 17 other women turned up to give it a go. Within a few weeks we had over 30 members and were training 2 nights per week. After a couple of months, I realised that I couldn’t continue to run it on my own so sought help from the ladies who were coming regularly and soon we had established a committee. Without their help, we would never have been able to continue to grow as rapidly and I know we would not have been as successful as we have. I am immensely grateful to our committee and all the voluntary hours they also put in. I really am lucky to have such a great team!

CB:  Do you have coaching qualifications and if so, did you take the coaching on or did you bring any other coaches in to help?

CL:  Yes I have the FA level 1 badge as I managed a boys team, that my daughter played in, for around 10 years and I was Vice-Chairperson of the club, so had plenty grassroots experience. I’ve also managed school football teams for many years. However, when I set this up it wasn’t to develop as a coach, quite the opposite – it was to be able to just play! I was managing to do both in the beginning, until a) numbers kept increasing and it got too big to run myself and b) I had a nasty ACL tear which forced me to stop playing. So we funded 2 of our members to complete their Level 1 and assist at training sessions. Demand increased again after lockdown and we have now brought in 4 new coaches who are making a huge difference. I was due to be starting the Level 2 course before Covid stopped that, but I will do it when the FA start running courses again.

CB:  How and where did you advertise the new sessions to reach the women you wanted to attract?

CL:  Initially I was advertising through my own social media accounts and set it for women over 30. However soon friends and colleagues in their 20s were asking if they could join and I thought why not, so we opened it up to anyone over 16. We established club social media accounts and they continue to grow. However, I think one of our biggest recruitment successes has been through word of mouth. People are always bringing along friends. I think our key to success is how inclusive we are, with all ages and abilities warmly welcomed.

CB:  What was your plan to begin with about how to run the sessions and were facilities readily available for you to use?   Do you have use of 3G pitches or do you use grass pitches?

CL:  My plan right from the start was to incorporate a mix of recreational and walking football alongside Soccercise sessions. We were lucky to be able to use the school field at the primary school where I and many of our original members work, including the headteacher who was a founding member. Last winter we had to hire the local high school sports hall and offer a different session altogether (more fitness based). When we came out of lockdown, we returned to the school, but had also secured a slot at the brand new Bury FC Community Trust 3G pitches.

CB: Did you get any funding to start with and how would you advise others to start up from scratch, with regards to obtaining equipment, kit etc?

CL: It was always my intention for this to be non for profit and charging just £2 a session to cover pitch hire also allowed us to buy our own equipment (we were initially using the school balls and bibs!). After a few weeks, I approached local football clubs to see if their Community Trust would like to get involved. That led to us affiliating with Bury FC Trust and Bury Girls, Boys and Women. They applied for a ‘Grow the Game’ grant for us and provided us with more equipment and funded a coach to come down and help at training sessions. We also applied for Bury Council community funding and received a grant towards our winter training hire (this enabled us to keep the fees low) and for me to complete my FA Level 2 but that was put on hold because of lockdown.

We have also been really successful with sponsors, possibly again because we are so active on social media but also because we have so many members, so that has opened up our reach massively. In total we’ve had 7 different companies sponsor training kit or match kits. My advice to anyone would be to just ask ask ask!!

CB:  You have increased your numbers rapidly from when you started, how have you adapted your sessions to cover the spectrum of women who attend or did you have a structure and they fitted into that?

CL: That has changed several times since we started – to enable us to cope with the demand but also to meet the needs of all of our members. Initially, we all trained together and just split across teams to offer enjoyable sessions for all. Last winter we first split by ability, into 2 teams, to enter a winter recreational league and this worked well – however we still all trained together. Before lockdown we had had 99 women give our sessions a try and were therefore on our member list. Of these, around 60 members had come back after the first session, the most we ever had at one session was around 40. We stayed in touch over lockdown and since our return in July, we welcomed our 100th member and have had another 50 odd women join! Things are now structured very differently, in order for us to comply with Covid regulations and to keep everyone as safe as possible. Players were split into different teams (Over 35s A, Over 35s B, Under 35s A, Under 35s B, Beginners) and we have now just formed an elite team with our strongest/most experienced players of any age playing together. I’m not sure how that will work with players in their teens to 60s, but I’m really excited to watch their first match and see how that develops. If it doesn’t work then we’ll change it!

CB:  With the number of women you have now, we presume you have more coaches.  Where did you find them?  We have found that a few women have become coaches from starting to play, have you found anything similar?

CL:  Yes we funded 2 of our members to do their L1 coaching badge, and we have several other members waiting to do it when local FAs are running courses again. I also used my contacts within youth grassroots and got in touch with people I’d worked with before who are now involved. Our vice-chairperson’s husband is also a qualified coach and he now trains one of the teams. Additionally, I met another local teacher who is heavily involved with youth football leagues and teams through Twitter – she joined as a player, but has now taken on a coaching/managing role as well. She has L1 & 2 qualifications and is considering doing the UEFA B Licence. She has been a great asset to the club.

CB:  We have heard many inspirational stories from “older” women who now play Recreational Football and being active during the menopausal years is particularly important.  Do you have any inspirational stories you can share?

CL:  One of the nicest things since establishing this group is getting messages from people telling you what a positive impact it has had on their life. From improving their general well-being and state of mind to their fitness and just quality of life in general.

CB:  We notice that you run Walking Football sessions as well.  There are a lot of new Walking Football teams setting up and it’s becoming really popular at a younger age, too.  Do you think enough women know about the “running” Recreational football or do you think they are starting at Walking Football level before realising they can still run?

CL:  We incorporate both into our sessions, so that everyone benefits from a bit of everything – rather than just having solely walking or solely recreational sessions. Again, I think this makes us quite unique.

CB:  Lockdown 1 and 2 have been hard for a lot of women, especially, and being active is really important.  Obviously, we weren’t allowed to play grassroots football in that time.  What did you do, to keep your women engaged while they couldn’t play?

CL:  Whilst we arrange matches and training through a club app, our main method of communication is through whatsapp groups. They enabled us to stay in touch. There are some women for health or family reasons who have not yet returned to sessions, and that’s fine – we realise this has been hard for everyone but some more than others and they will be welcomed back whenever they return even if that’s not for another year. Like many we arranged weekly zoom quizzes at the start of the first lockdown and for some it was the highlight of their week. I also ran weekly soccercise sessions in the early days. Another of our members, who is an ex-fitness instructor also started doing regular fitness sessions over zoom, which were very popular and appreciated by our members. Through that she has now gone on to take the role of our strength and conditioning coach. The number of volunteers associated with the club keeps rising too.

CB:  Socially, Women’s Rec. Football has provided some great memories for us of nights out, nights away with football (and alcohol!) included and just the general enjoyment of each other’s company, with women you may never have met before football. The social aspect of Women’s Rec. Football is just as important as the football to some women.  We saw you went to Marbella, to play a team out there, that must have been amazing!  How did that weekend go or is that a silly question?!

CL: Our first main social event was a trip to London to play the Arsenal Community walking football team. They were absolutely lovely and we really enjoyed playing in the Dome and being treated to a tour of the Emirates. They even put some food on for us after the match and it was nice to get to know the ladies – they really made us feel welcome. We then spent the night in Shoreditch and the following day in Camden. It was just a great weekend. Then earlier this year, 30 of us went to Marbella! It really was unreal! We hired 3 luxury villas in Puerto Banus and we had a BALL!! Yes we did play a little football with Super Vets – organised male walking football teams in Costa Del Sol and they were really great guys. We returned absolutely buzzing and wanting more! Two of our members are French and we were about to organise a trip to France for walking football and another of our members had put me in touch with a massive recreational women’s club in /Washington, so we were hopeful of a trip to the Stets in October. Obviously Covid has put that on the backburner, but I have no doubt both trips will happen one day! We have also organised our own social events from a fundraising ‘race night’ to ‘Come Dine With Us!’ a food tasting session held after training. These are great ways for the women to bond and get to know each other well.

CB: With EURO 2022 being held in England, this is going to inspire many more women to play Recreational Football, do you think there are enough venues and coaches available near you, to be able to facilitate the growth?  

CL: I think it’s going to be a very exciting time for both recreational and walking women’s football over the next few years, with county FA positions currently being advertised up and down the country. I actually think there are enough clubs, coaches and venues. However, I don’t think enough women know how good it is yet! I can honestly see that changing over time.

CB: What have been your biggest achievements so far with Bury FC Women Vets?

CL: In 2019 we were nominated for ‘Initiative of the Year’ at Bury Sports Awards, which we very proudly won. We were subsequently put through to the Greater Manchester Sports Awards, representing Bury in this category. Whilst we didn’t win, it was a huge honour to even be shortlisted for such a prestigious event held at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. A few weeks ago we were notified that we have been shortlisted for the 2020 Lancashire FA awards as ‘Project of the Year’ – another great honour just being nominated.

CB:  Finally, Casey, what are your plans for the future in relation to promoting Women’s Rec. Football in the Bury area and where do you see Bury FC Women Vets in 5 years’ time? 

CL: I just want to get as many women as possible playing (or at least trying) football. That has become a passion of mine. I think we’ll continue to attract players through word of mouth. I wonder if we will ever get too big, but I hope we never need to refuse people joining! What I really want though, is other clubs locally to recreate what we’ve created. That way we’ll have more opponents – as finding fixtures for 6 teams is difficult. Our local FAs are on board with this, I’m pleased to say I can see many more recreational leagues being established in the coming years. I hope rec football gets as big in the UK as it is in America!

Thanks very much Casey, we can’t wait to meet up with you all but it’s going to have to be somewhere like St. George’s Park to fit all our players in one place!  Carry on inspiring other women and hopefully we can get back to some kind of “normal” next year.

If you want to know more about Bury FC Women Vets, you can contact them on BuryFCWV@gmail.com or see their social media pages for more information.

Facebook: Bury FC Women Vets

Twitter: @BuryFCWV

Instagram: @buryfcwv2019

Website: Coming soon