MFA North West London’s Mental Health League Women’s Division in partnership with Minds United FC
“No matter what circumstances women find themselves in, football should remain a welcoming sport for them, as well as men.”
The North West London Mental Health League is a Middlesex FA League that provides competitive opportunities for teams who are accessing mental health support. Following a great return of the league following the pandemic impact, there was a raise in women playing within the mixed gender league which prompted the question of starting a women’s only division of the league.
For the 21/22 season, the new women’s division launched in partnership with mental health football club Minds United FC. We caught up with Natalie Simms and Vicki Mcgarrigle from Minds United FC to talk more about the league.
Tell us about the league and why it came about?
“Minds United WFC launched a women’s team last June to begin helping women in the community and give them the courage to take part with football therapy. Our aim was to grow the game and have a massive impact on the female community across all areas.
We have a big ethos of inclusion, diversity and equality within the club and have a particular focus on supporting women with poor mental health, women from the Muslim community and women experiencing isolation who want to be active and connect socially.
Middlesex FA's Inclusion Officer Lauren Mawdsley saw the positive effects of the club and approached Minds United FC about creating a women’s division within the North West London Mental Health League. The league started in September 2021 and as a friendly recreational division and hope for it to become a competition division for the 22/23 season.
Incredibly Minds United have over 40 women involved in the club and league and hope to see more women and teams involved next season” – Vicki Mcgarrigle, Minds United WFC
Why is the women’s division at the league important?
“Mental illness does not discriminate against sex and 1 in 4 of use will struggle with our mental health at some point in our life. As someone who has suffered with mental illness and had it as one of the main factors to why I left the sport in the first place, a sport I had played since childhood, it makes me sad that a sport that already faces many barriers for women, could come up against more hurdles when mental health is concerned.
Mental health in football must be tackled for everyone and a league for both men and women is important to close the gap for accessing a sport, while also highlighting and promoting good mental health. It's important for women to know they have a place in football, especially so when their mental health may not be at its best. We need to know we can be supported and understood by those that have been there, who will not judge us and who share a passion for the beautiful game.
No matter what circumstances women find themselves in, football should remain a welcoming sport for them, as well as men.” - Natalie Sims, Minds United WFC
What are the benefits of the league and how can we encourage more women to get involved?
“Women can be just as competitive as men and a league will give women something to aim for. We all want to achieve something, and sport is an important part of bringing people together to encourage friendly competition. It's a place where women can feel part of something, make friends and challenge themselves. Women face more barriers than men in this sport and these need to be broken down. Starting with football as a way to promote good mental health is a start to everyone accessing any sports as a way to maintain or use as a recovery tool for mental wellbeing.” - Natalie Sims, Minds United WFC
What’s the hope and plans for this division?
“I hope the women's division will bring a sense of togetherness for those that feel football is not for them due to various factors like motherhood, religion or discrimination. The division can be a safe and welcoming space for women and girls who may not have found a place to play football, that meets or understands their needs. I hope the league can bring in teams that can welcome new players who may feel the normal avenues to access football too daunting or overwhelming. Mental health problems should never be a barrier for any person to follow a dream.” - Natalie Sims, Minds United WFC
The North West London Mental Health League Women’s Division is always welcoming new women, teams and organisations to join. Come join us at one of our next league dates;
Dates for 2021/22 Season: 11th March, 8th April, 13th May & 10th June
Time: 1pm – 3pm
Venue: Brunel University Sports Park, 100 Kingston Ln, Uxbridge UB8 3PW
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Greater London Women's League is celebrating 50 years of running! Find out more about it's history.
Find out more