Amidst the league’s inception, PENALTY spoke to founder Shameek Farrell to discuss the environment that provides a space for women and non-binary people to kick a ball around.
A year on, the grassroots league has gone from strength to strength. This has culminated in more teams, a new league, fresh partnerships, and most importantly, more inclusivity.
PENALTY re-caught up with the founder to unpack the rise of The Goalposts League, and its exciting future.
How pleased have you been with The Goalposts League’s growth since we last spoke?
I am immensely proud of the league's growth since we last spoke. Sometimes I pinch myself to remind myself that this is real. Initially, we started with seven teams, and now we have twenty-two teams taking part across four divisions across the week. As well as being proud of the growth, I am equally proud of how valued the league has been by the players, teams and strangers alike. We had a clear objective for what we wanted to represent and achieve, and we have surpassed all of our goals for this year, and we're looking forward to pushing more boundaries for 2023 and beyond.
How is branching into new locations helping with spreading The Goalposts League’s message?
First and foremost, having three locations to facilitate our league enables us to connect with more players, more teams and more communities, which most importantly allows us to expand our outreach and give people more opportunities to play in a safe and encouraging environment. We want everyone to have access to the same level of care no matter where they play, whether that's with us or elsewhere. We all have a duty to help our game grow.
How has the partnership with adidas helped the growth/branding of the league?
adidas have been incredibly supportive in helping to break barriers over the past year. Above all, adidas has allowed us to lead with our vision, and to be creatively free, and with their support, we have been able to grow organically and create the change that we would like to see within the women's game and grassroots football.
Has the Player Network continued to prove successful?
The Player Network has proved to be a successful feature since we launched it. Not only have we connected players with teams in our leagues, but this has now expanded to us connecting dots with teams outside our leagues and gives players more opportunities to play in different areas of London. We have had an incredible response, and we have had 68 people sign up, and as it stands, we have helped 36 of those find a team. There are still a lot of tweaks that need to be made to the Player Network to help with efficiency, but during this time, we have learned that it works, it is valued, and has untold potential. From our side, we get great satisfaction in connecting the dots for the players, and we're looking forward to developing our network further.
What words would you use to encourage people to get involved?
I would say don't be afraid to try. Turn up as you are, and we promise you will leave with something that will become a big part of your life, mentally, physically and socially. Everyone is so supportive and accommodating, regardless of ability or experience this is your space to learn, develop and most importantly, have fun.
How excited are you about the launch of the Haggerston league?
I am super excited that we have launched a new league at Haggerston School. There's something euphoric about playing football on a floodlit pitch when the sky is dark. Getting to this point has been quite the challenge, with pitch spaces being so scarce, dealing with astronomical costs of pitches and finally, finding a suitable location to call home. It's not been easy, but despite all those setbacks, no's, and answered emails, here we are. We have a new home. It feels like everything is falling into the place at the right time.
What's been your favourite moment from the 1st year of the initiative?
This is going to sound very cliche, but it is impossible to name one specific moment because the league has produced so many over the past year, both on and off the pitch. From seeing how well our first league has grown, hosting tournaments with our friends at Freestar & Indivisa plus creating a special TGL IPA, and collaborating with Romance FC on Playing for Kicks 2022, that's to name a few. It has been a wholesome year filled with so much joy, love and lots of football, and we're extremely grateful to all the teams for believing in the ethos and helping us to elevate grassroots football culture to new heights. What a year it's been.
What's next for The Goalposts League?
Next in the pipeline for TGL is to expand to new areas like North, South and West London and develop our wellness programs further. To continue to converse with local schools to help facilitate a school girls league that hopefully will launch in 2024. Lastly, to carry on the trajectory that we are on right now. I believe the league and the teams involved are integral components to the development and good energy that's coming from the grassroots scene, and I know collectively, we will do our utmost to push the culture to new heights.