Gals FC players in training

Gals FC: A football community with different goals

Fun, friendly and chaotic. Three words co-founder Lorne Magill used to describe Gals FC.

Three words you might not associate with the football clubs you think of, but that’s the point. Gals FC is not your usual football club.

Fed up of only being able to eat and drink with friends in London, Lorne and her best friend Nora Beqaj set out to try something new and create the community they felt they were lacking.

All too familiar with hearing women thinking they are not fit enough or good enough, Lorne and Nora set out to give women a safe space to play non-competitive football.

“We wanted to remove the barriers to entry for playing football,” said Lorne. “So many girls have been scarred by team sport so we wanted to create an environment where the goal is to have fun rather than be good.

“We make it silly and enjoyable, so everyone feels welcome and can leave feeling amazing. It’s about playing to play and not to win, making football accessible for everybody.”

And they practise what they preach.

Lorne had never played football before setting up Gals FC in September 2022, and Nora had only played a little at school in Canada.

They used YouTube to find training drills before their first session and accidentally ordered the wrong cones from Amazon, which were comically small.

But none of that mattered. Despite having no prior knowledge of football, they discovered that kicking a ball around could be the perfect vessel for building a community and having a good time.

Their initial message stated: “Are you searching for community? Do you want to meet new people? We’ve got the match to light your fire with Wednesday football nights. Some will be beginners, some will be slightly less beginnery, it will be rain or shine, but it will all be fun!”

Starting with seven women, they now have 65 paying members across London (Whitechapel) and Brighton and a waiting list of more than 100, which they have had to close whilst they consider their expansion plan.

“Our growth has all happened very organically,” Lorne added. “We realised we were really good at getting people on the pitch for the first time because of the way that we play and the environment we create.

“People soon realise when they turn up, it’s not daunting. Because we don’t keep score, it doesn’t matter if you miss a goal or let a goal in.

“We get eye rolls from some men when we explain the non-competitive concept to them. I’ve been asked ‘what’s the point if nobody wins?’ But if you don’t understand it, it’s not for you – and that’s okay!

“Being non-competitive takes the scariness out of it, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t getting better. We definitely are improving and we are also getting so many people playing football who wouldn’t consider it before.”

Their 2023 impact survey revealed that 87% of their members would not be playing football if it weren’t for Gals FC and 70% of members said their football skills had improved since joining.

Nora and Lorne also organised a trip to the Emirates, taking 85 people along to watch Arsenal Women, which for many, this was their first taste of live football.

And their impact goes far beyond football. They found that 86% of people always feel happier after a session, 56% feel more confident about who they are as a person and 64% feel more connected to their city since joining.

Accessibility is important and they have had people from all different backgrounds, age groups and ethnicities attend training. In one session, every attendee was from a different country.

Some of their members have come from chance encounters.

Lorne’s tattoo artist Jade asked her mid-inking about her plans and found herself joining that evening’s session.

The Facebook Marketplace seller who they bought their microphones for their new podcast series from is also now a Gals FC member.

“Wherever we go, people want to join!” Lorne said. “The only thing you need to know how to do before joining is cheer. Cheering is mandatory.”

Currently running Gals FC alongside working in events and sales, Lorne and Nora have aspirations to make it their full-time jobs so they can keep spreading the joy.

Having discovered how accessible football can be if delivered in the right way, they have ambitions to expand into new cities through ambassadors who can recreate the experience.

“We want to become a household name for non-competitive football,” said Lorne. “We want doctors to prescribe Gals FC – like ‘Couch to 5K’, but for football.”

In a sport which has excluded women and girls for so long, Gals FC is part of the changing landscape of women’s football.

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