Jill Scott, footballer and Starling ambassador, talks about her retirement from football and what’s next, with Annabel Herrick of the Starling writing team.

A chatty, buoyant teammate and morale magician, footballer Jill Scott is quick to apologise for losing her voice, now raspy: “I’m so sorry, I’ve been doing interviews all day,” she says. Jill is still riding the wave of the win but the exuberant midfielder – “the worst person to sit next to if you want downtime on the bus” – is fighting to keep her energy up.

And yet, having announced her retirement a few weeks after the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 final, Jill knows that quiet soul-searching is the one thing she needs as she enters a new chapter. The reality looks different.

Jill Scott, footballer and Starling business customer

A national hero with over 150 caps; a team jester adored for her scrappy England v Germany outburst (“I was always praised for my ability to be joking around, laughing, then it would switch and I’d be so focussed”), it’s safe to say she’s in demand. Her generous character has meant she’s always been quick to give away her time, yet she tells me her outlook is different now:

“I want to make my decisions based on happiness. I want time with my loved ones but to also work on my career – I’m going to have to figure out that balance. You can never get time back,” she says.

When I ask about the moment she decided to retire, I see the side of Jill that’s measured and composed: “It’s important not to make any decisions when you’re emotional. When I finally had some time to think after the tournament, I knew it was the right thing to do.”

Jill runs a coffee shop alongside her football career

Balancing business with football

Last year, Jill launched a coffee shop in Manchester, Boxx2Boxx, which she has been running alongside football. As she waves goodbye to her 20-year career as a football player and peels her identity away from the role that’s shaped her life, her business has felt like a balm:

“I’m used to being in a big squad! But I knew I could always go to the coffee shop to see people. Now we’re hiring more staff and organising evening events, like live music and games nights.”

Unsurprisingly, the coffee shop has never been busier: “While the tournament was on, we saw a huge increase in customers. Some days we had five times the amount of people we’d normally expect,” she says. Recognising that people come from far and wide to meet her, she’s made sure there’s always a pile of signed photos for customers to take home if she can’t be there.

During this whirlwind, she’s more grateful than ever for on-the-go banking as a loyal Starling business customer: “If I need to transfer money, I can get it done quickly on my phone. Once you’re in the app, it’s all there – it’s so easy. I love the simplicity.”

For Jill, coffee has always been more than coffee – it’s an avenue to help people and offer a space to talk. “Asking someone to go for a coffee is an easy way to check in on them,” she continues, “In training, I made sure that I felt 100% so that I could help others. If the team is feeling good, we do well. Sometimes all it takes is someone asking if you’re okay.”

This attitude is evident on and off the pitch. Jill has always been lauded for her unselfish approach where stardom has never been the end goal: “It’s not about you – it’s about the team’s success. It’s ingrained in me.”

Winning the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022

The England team’s connection was never more apparent than during the jubilant celebrations. I point out that watching the Lionesses win felt – I would imagine – very different to watching a men’s team win. I list examples: the storming of the press conference, the dancing on tables, Chloe Kelly casting away the BBC mic mid-interview to sing with her mates, making snow angels in the grubby confetti and the iconic sports bra sprint.

The women showed an unreserved playfulness; it was pure joy. When I ask Jill if that’s how it felt, she answered: “We were just a group of friends who had achieved the biggest thing we could’ve ever achieved. I could’ve danced all night.”

Figuring out her future

It’s easy to see why, now a team of one, she’s feeling daunted by the prospect of focusing on herself and figuring out what she wants next. Starling’s ‘Our Time’ campaign celebrated and championed women’s football, but how does she interpret this now?

“Being an ambassador for Starling, it was all about football – it’s Our Time to change the game. Now it means something different to me. It’s Our Time to work out what the next chapter will be!”

Following retirement, Jill aims to “make Boxx2Boxx the best it can be” while inspiring the next generation. “With the success of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, there’s going to be more demand for the women’s game – and that means more jobs. Whether that’s players or referees, or whatever, if young girls can see women in those roles, they can believe it and dream it.”

Starling is the only bank in the UK founded by a woman. To find out how we are supporting the women’s game beyond the tournament, including grassroot grants and young athlete awards, follow our social channels for updates.

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