fran milne

March's Women's Watch - Fran Milne

We are celebrating International Women's Day with an interview with Whitstable Town Football Club Director and Secretary Fran Milne.

Each month, the Kent FA is highlighting the amazing work of women who are having a positive impact on football in the county.

This month, friend of Kent FA Faye Hackwell chatted to Fran Milne about the ins and outs of being a football club secretary.

Ten years ago, Fran Milne would have been “absolutely flabbergasted” if you’d told her football would one day become a central part of her life.

“I had no interest in football,” the Whitstable Town Football Club Director and Secretary recalls.

“I didn’t really know much about it at all until my son started playing at under-eights - that was when I first got involved.

“The club secretary at the time stepped down and they said ‘would you be interested in doing it? It's not a lot, there’s quite a small amount to do’, so I said yes.”

That was back in 2018 and the “small amount” of work referred to turned into a mammoth task when Fran’s Whitstable Town Juniors merged with the town’s senior side, Whitstable Town Football Club, the following year.

Fran’s secretary role was extended to incorporate the adult sides when the two clubs joined forces to share resources, volunteers, facilities and a committee.

“We formed a new committee, made up of some from the youth and some from the main club, and looked at how to structure it, what we were going to do, and we set up a limited company again.

“It sounds quite simple and straightforward when you say it like that, but it was a lot of work and it was something that I think none of us really knew what we were letting ourselves in for when we did it.

“We spoke to lots of different people for advice and nobody could really help or advise us, because they said it hadn't been done before.

“It was such a complex thing and, in the end, Kellie Discipline (Kent FA Director and Chief Executive of the Isthmian League) sat on the phone and talked us through the whole process of what we needed to do and every step that we needed to take.”

fran milne

The hard work involved in the merger has now paid off, with the club’s different sections united as one community and the adult and junior sides benefitting from one another in a range of ways.

Players, coaches and parents from Whitstable Town’s 30-plus youth teams often attend first team matches to support their senior club mates, with the children getting the opportunity to be mascots.

All of the teams wear the same kit and the different age groups see each other at training - which can inspire the younger players.

“The youth teams can now see that there's a pathway all the way through from our development centres and the under-sevens, all the way up to the under-18s in the academy and then up to the first team.

“Running a football club takes an awful lot of volunteers and having that pool of parents and coaches has helped, because a lot of the volunteers on a matchday now come from the youth - they're either parents doing hospitality or coaches coming down to do stewarding and it helps keep everything going.”

As secretary, Fran’s role involves overseeing administration - from registering players and arranging fixtures to handling pitch bookings and dealing with discipline notifications, while also answering questions from coaches - of which Whitstable Town has more than 80.

Despite only developing an interest in football later in life, Fran now rarely misses a Whitstable Town first team game - chipping in wherever she’s needed on home matchdays and travelling away to support the team, who are currently vying for a play-off spot in the Southern Counties East Football League (SCEFL).

There have been many highlights along the way for Fran, including when The Belmont’s 3G pitch was installed in summer 2022 after many hours of hard work and fundraising by the directors and volunteers.

But there have also been challenging times, including the first team’s relegation to the SCEFL in 2021/22.

Fran would love to see them gain promotion back to the Isthmian League South East Division, and for the club’s female section to grow to include an adult women’s team and girls teams throughout the age groups. 

Her two children both play for the club and the Whitstable Town community rallied round to support her when her husband, Matt, died suddenly last year, aged 43, after becoming ill on a flight home from a work trip.

A minute’s applause was held in his memory at a first team game and Fran found solace in continuing to attend matches, as the network of friends she’d built up within football came into its own.

“Matt was really involved in the club as well and the community has probably kept me going the last few months - the people in the club have been tremendous.

“From the first team players who’ve come and hugged me before and after a match to our manager and Mike, Steve and Ron, my other three directors, who are just brilliant.

“And others, I could name 100 people - the community is quite something.

There have been other football clubs as well - the number of messages and emails I've had from all over has made me realise that football's pretty special.

“I think it’s held me together.”

Fran is also part of the Kent FA’s Female Volunteer Forum, which meets several times a year to bring women in all roles in the sport together for networking, activities and opportunities to learn from others.

“It’s really nice to discuss things with other clubs, hear about what they're doing and bounce ideas off people - I’ve found it really inspiring.”

Despite the demands of juggling a time-consuming volunteer role with work and family life, Fran finds the hours she puts in are worth it for the rewards of being part of a club.

“The work behind the scenes, not necessarily by me but by the hundreds of volunteers we have, sometimes gets a little bit forgotten.

“And yet there is some amazing work going on, not just in our club but in all the different clubs, and some really, really good people. 

“When you win on a Saturday afternoon - then it’s all worth it.

“It's that sense of belonging. 

“It's our club and we want it to be a success, and we will put in the work to make it a success.”