Sophie Bartup: “I believe in our players, and I look forward to cheering them on”
When the South Yorkshire Ability Counts League kicks off again in October, there will be two teams of welcome new faces, from the Humber area, making an appearance in our League competitions. Barton Athletic FC will be playing their football in what is expected to be a highly-competitive 7-a-side Championship Division and Inter Barton FC will play in Division One of the 5-a-side league.
We wanted to know a little more about our new friends and rivals, so our www.southyorkshireabilitycountsleague.com editor Margaret Gregory had an email chat with Sophie Bartup, who is a Sports Lecturer and the driving force behind Barton Inclusive Football Club.
Margaret: Sophie, welcome to the South Yorkshire Ability Counts League. Tell us a little about Barton Inclusive – how it started, the League you have been playing in, the progress you’ve made.
Sophie: Thank you very much, and before we start, I’d like to say a big thank you to The South Yorkshire Ability Counts League, to Mike and to all the teams, players and volunteers who have made us feel extremely welcome.
Barton Inclusive FC started after I moved permanently to the area in October 2018; I was keen to volunteer within the Ability Counts game, however at the time, there wasn’t any provision within the town. So, this led me to create BIFC. I actually just remember saying one day as I was sat at home ‘I’m going to create a club!’; this was in January 2019. I hosted a fundraiser in July 2019 and from September 2019, we started our sessions. We began with a session for inclusive football and one walking football session. We welcomed new players, volunteers and began to plan for our future, when the COVID lockdown was announced in March 2020. We stayed connected with our players via Zoom, and within the next 12-16 months, we started training at a new facility, introduced Wildcats to our club and continued to welcome new players for both our inclusive and walking sessions. Amongst all this, we delivered a range of initiatives as a club such as our ‘Liam Jinks Cup’, which will be hosted annually. The hard work that has gone into our club from everyone involved led to us being awarded the Lincolnshire FA ‘Club of the Year’ for the 2020/21 season; of which we are immensely proud. We now have over 70 players within our club, which continues to grow with two competitive Ability Counts teams.
Margaret: How did you hear about the SYACL and what made you decide to join up with us?
Sophie: Being a new club, we started to explore competitive playing opportunities for our players and did extensive research within our region; to develop our understanding of the networks and structures in place, to varying levels of engagement. We are located in quite a unique position in North Lincolnshire, with many of our players traveling from surrounding areas and counties. After initial conversations with SYACL representatives, and consultation with our players and volunteers, we made the decision that we were confident that SYACL would provide our players with high quality regular competitive football.
Margaret: How has your pre-season training gone?
Sophie: It’s been very positive for us, our players and our coaches. Our Inter Barton FC team entered the Spartans FC tournament in Sheffield, of which they won their division. I was there that day to support our team, and I was very impressed with the event, the authenticity of the environment and how each team and their managers supported each other. Following this, I drove straight to Bradford to support our Barton Athletic FC team; in what was an extremely competitive set of matches.
In addition to this, both of our teams have just returned from an event with Sheffield DFC at the Concord sports centre on Sunday. This gave us another opportunity to put into practise what we have been working on in training. I have to say a big thank you to Kevin of Sheffield for hosting us.
Prior to their first league fixture, Inter Barton FC will be heading to Doncaster to play their women’s team, which I am sure will be a valuable experience for our players.
Margaret: What are you most looking forward to when SYACL competition starts?
Sophie: Definitely for our players, they’re so excited to play league football. We have players such as Zak and Sean from Barton Athletic FC who came to our very first training session and will be experiencing their first competitive match representing BIFC. I am excited for our coaches Richard and James who have worked so hard with their players. We know we have to travel, and this would likely be the case wherever we played, however we have enjoyed our trips so far, getting the bus together and building momentum as we arrive at new places. Personally, I am just so grateful to everyone that has joined us on this journey, we’re dedicated to driving forward to reach a more equal and sustainable pathway for our players, and also for future coaches, referees, and volunteers.
Margaret: What should we be looking out for from your teams?
Sophie: A few months ago, I would have said we have two groups of great players and exceptional people. The more they have trained with each other and played together, our coaches are starting to see how they’re beginning to work more as a team, in cohesion with each other. Both our teams are extremely hard working and competitive. Through our pre-season, we know the quality of what exists within the League, and we know that we will need to turn up and prepare professionally in order to compete. Although this will be our first time of entering into a League, I know our players are proud to wear the badge and will want to do everyone connected with the club proud. I believe in them and will look forward to attending their matches and cheering them on.
And before we finish, again I’d like to thank SYACL for their support and guidance and genuine commitment to welcoming us into their community. The standard of service we have received has been exceptional.
www.syacl.com would like to thank Sophie and all at Barton Inclusive FC and we wish them every success in the season to come.
Check back at our website for our forthcoming match days, when you can see Barton – and all our fantastic teams – back in competitive action.