Weston-super-Mare’s successful walking football set-up has been bolstered by the addition of a ladies’ section thanks to a vital cash injection.

The Seagulls have nearly 100 members across their various men’s walking football teams, with the over-50s recently crowned national champions after beating Leeds United in the Pharmacy2U Walking Football Association (WFA) National Cup.

Lach Geddes, the team’s player-manager and Weston’s community director, played an integral role in helping the men’s set up rise from humble beginnings and now hopes to see a similar journey followed by the ladies’ teams.

“There are so many ladies who have never had the opportunity to play football,” he said.

“We have a few ladies over 50, including one lady in her late 60s, who have never had the chance to play. Walking football is an ideal introduction for them.

“What we’ve found with the men’s set-up is it becomes a social aspect of their week and a network.

“Already, our ladies are so supportive of each other and it’s lovely and humbling to see people coming together.

“We have a successful template to follow from the men’s walking football, which I’ve been involved in since day one. That was a snowball effect and has continued to spiral – we currently have 94 members and it’s growing all the time.

“I’ll be happy when we get over 100 or 150 ladies down at the club doing all the different sessions.

“What I want to see is the football club and the 3G pitch busy and buzzing with different activities every day of the week.

“We want to grow our community offering and it’s important people don’t just see us as a football club, but that they see us as a point where they can interact.”

The club currently run two ladies’ training sessions a week and the initiative has been made possible by a grant from the Trident Community Foundation, established by Pitching In – a multi-million-pound grassroots sport investment programme set up by Ladbrokes with the support of its owner Entain

The Seagulls are one of more than 30 clubs across the Pitching In Southern, Isthmian and Northern Premier Leagues to have been successful first two rounds of TCF grants, which range from £1,000 to £5,000, and has been integral in helping the club increase their community offering.

“These things needs to be structured and that’s why the grant for the ladies walking football was a godsend,” he said.

“It has helped us on all aspects. We’ve got a proper qualified coach at every session and allowed us to hire out the 3G pitch, along with paying for bits and pieces of equipment.

“Our approach was ‘if you’re going to do it, let’s do it properly’ and the grant has really helped us in that regard.

“We have our first friendly arranged for the end of January next year and the aim is that it will grow like the men’s did.

“Then we can have people who want to move into competitive teams and people who just want to come down for a kickabout and a coffee.

“Walking football is great for physical and mental health, as well as being a social outlet. Once you come along, you’re addicted.”

Anyone interested in trying walking football at Weston-super-Mare AFC can email niel.bassom@wsmafc.co.uk for more information.

Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/