As someone who loves sports and has a particular football interest, I was sad to hear todays news regarding Notts County. I thought I would do a brief post outlining my thoughts on the matter.
First a bit of background… For those that haven’t already heard, Notts County announced today that their ladies team will fold just two days before the start of the Women’s Super League season. The club had debts and projected losses rising to almost £1 million and according to owner, Alan Hardy, it would have been ‘financial suicide’ to keep the club going. Hardy took over Notts County in January and tried to restructure to save the Ladies side but it’s now evident that his attempts have failed.
County were due to play Arsenal this Sunday (23rd) so I think it’s fair to say the timing of the announcement has surprised most people, especially the players.
The squad features several England internationals, including Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jo Potter, and Jade Moore. All four were part of the team that reached the 2015 World Cup semi-final, and were named in Mark Sampson’s squad for the upcoming European Championships. If these players cannot find new clubs, they will be out of football for three months.
To an outsider it would appear that women’s football is on the up. It’s receiving more media coverage and exposure than ever before. But this event highlights the ongoing struggles female football clubs are facing; it is a reminder of the under investment in women’s football and women’s sport more widely.
There is still a lot of work to be done. The successes of the powerhouses in WSL 1 such as Manchester City Women, Arsenal Ladies and Chelsea Ladies must not draw our attention away from issues other clubs may be facing. The three clubs I just listed are linked to the male clubs who are top of their game in the Premier League. I’m not saying that being allied to a men’s team definitely guarantees success, longevity and financial sustainability, but it certainly helps… a lot. Generally, the best WSL teams are those that are most strongly supported by a men’s team; they have the money and the resources. The smaller, independent clubs struggle to compete.
The WSL has grown, but does this event suggest it is growing at a rate too fast for those clubs without a rich partner?
What we want to avoid is a situation where the Women’s Super League is no longer competitive and instead it’s monopolised by the three or four clubs who can afford to compete and have the financial backing from partner clubs.
It is clear that the financial situation of female clubs has to change before more livelihoods are put at risk and so women’s football can continue to develop in the UK. Hopefully this event will now spark a discussion about funding for women’s football.
The future of the Notts County players remains uncertain. It is thought that the Professional Footballers’ Association is going to work with the FA to help with financial and legal issues and finding new clubs for players. It seems they are looking to find short term fixes for players until the transfer window opens on June 23rd.
I really hope that young female players have not heard of this news and are deterred from considering playing football as a career. Let it be just a small blip for the women’s game…