Unsung Hero 2014: Girls' football pioneers win West award

Swindon duo's girls' football revolution

BBC West's Sports Unsung Hero award has been won by Chris and Bev Maull, the girls' football pioneers who run Swindon Spitfires.

Chris, 69, helped set up the club in 1967, making them one of the oldest female football set-ups in the country.

He now maintains the grounds and facilities while his wife Bev, 59, helps coach the club's 10 teams.

"Seeing all those girls mature into ladies, and knowing you're part of it, is fantastic," Bev told BBC Point West.

"We always try and make it fun for the girls so that they stay in the game. It's like one big community all getting together."

It was a group of Swindon Town cheerleaders who encouraged Chris to set up the club, along with his friend who had a football-obsessed daughter, and they went on to be named after the World War II fighter planes built in the South Marston area.

When the Spitfires started 46 years ago, there was only one ladies' team formed - with players aged from 12-20.

But they now have three senior teams, age groups from 16 to eight, as well as a men's team.

Swindon Spitfires in the 1960s
The Swindon Spitfires girls' team was set up in 1967

"Only our family and friends came to watch because we didn't want to tell people we played ladies football," said former player Bev Watts.

"It was strange as it was a boys' game back then. To come out and see all these teams now is fantastic."

Chris will spend much of his spare time preparing the grounds for the weekend fixtures, while he sets up the facilities on a match day and also provides refreshments for supporters.

Bev, meanwhile, coaches the various sides and still plays in the women's senior team.

"This is Chris's second home," said his wife. "He's never at home. He's always out here cutting grass, marking pitches or forking the ground, to get them ready for a Saturday."

She added: "Even in the wind and the rain the girls love it here. It's one big family."

The Maulls will now go forward for the national award, which will be presented at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year event in Glasgow on Sunday, 14 December.

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