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Ladies Football a warning for all supporters

by Andrew Crawshaw

Arsenal Ladies were due to commence their Spring Series on Sunday afternoon with a game against Notts County Ladies.  This game was cancelled due to Notts County Ladies being disbanded.  The announcement was made late on the Friday before the game.

The Official Statement from the owner of Notts County Ladies included the following

“I am devastated that we cannot continue the Ladies project but the numbers simply do not stack up,” said Notts County chairman Hardy. “Continuing would have been little short of financial suicide.

“When I took over the club, HMRC and other creditors had in excess of £350,000 of unpaid liabilities. Additionally, I was extremely concerned that to operate Notts County Ladies for the current season was going to cost us approximately £500,000 – a figure principally made up of player and coaching salaries.

“Our total projected incoming revenue from attendances and sponsorship was £28,000.

“It’s a very sad day for me personally and supporters should rest assured I have left no stone unturned in my quest to save the club.

“However, having taken all factors into consideration, the only possible outcome is to discontinue our Ladies club.

“I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to the staff and players and we all wish them every success in finding new clubs.”

The FA being their usual helpful selves issued the following statement

“The FA is aware of the situation and is liaising with all involved parties.

“Our priority is the welfare of the players and we will work closely with them, the PFA and wider stakeholders to support them through this time.

“We would also like to make clear that an FA WSL licence cannot simply be transferred into another club’s name.

“To maintain the integrity of the league and in fairness to all other FA WSL and FA Women’s Premier League clubs there is a rigorous application process to meet licence criteria.”

Among the Notts County players is the England goalkeeper Carly Telford and three other members of the England squad: Laura Bassett, Jade Moore and Jo Potter.  The Ladies transfer window is now closed and it remains to be seen how quickly they and other members of the playing squad can find alternative clubs.

Notts County has only been existence for three years since they moved from Lincoln.  In their last two seasons at Lincoln they had average home attendances of 526 and 269, a big drop from their former heyday when they were getting attendances of between 1,500 and 3,000.

There are a number of factors involved here – The Women’s Super League is a professional league.  Whilst players probably earn less per year than the average Premier League players get a week and the squad size is 18 rather than 25.

Mr Hardy’s statement that the cost of running the club for the year was in the order of £0.5m principally on salaries of players, coaches etc. looks to be in the right order.  18 players at an average of say £20k per year plus £140k for coaches, medical staff etc.

His estimate of income of only £28k from sponsors and ticket sales looks remarkably small and I have no way of knowing what the sponsorship income is but for the last season all WSL teams played 8 home games (the league comprising just 9 teams), plus a few games in the two cup competitions.  Arsenal’s home games typically get crowds in the order of 1,000 at a typical ticket price of £4 (Arsenal charge £6 for adults and £3 for concessions).  The home income for Arsenal would therefore be in the order of £40k (8 * 1,000 * 4) from league games.  If the average home gate were less than at Arsenal home games then the income figures start to make some sense.

In North America matches regularly fill 15,000 plus stadia, in the UK an attendance of 2,000 is a great crowd and there really is no reason why there should be that type of discrepancy.  I wish that Arsenal would play a couple of games a year at the Emirates in the same way as the U23s are required to do.

There is absolutely no way that any professional club can continue in existence when they have to rely on a measly 10 to 12 home games a season; the whole set up of the WSL is a recipe for disaster.

There is a tremendous difference in standard between the clubs in the WSL1 and the second division WSL2 and a further difference to the level below that.  Combining the two divisions would inevitably lead to a large number of very one-sided games, but would double the matchday income for all clubs as would having each team in the WSL1 play each other four times a season rather than twice.  The additional games would also allow any team to have a bad match without being unduly penalised.  In a season decided over 16 games, there is absolutely no room for error.

Come on WSL and the FA!  Get this situation sorted out before the start of the 2017/18 season.  You currently have time but not much.

As you may know, Pauline and I try to get to the Arsenal Ladies home games and we find them highly enjoyable.  There isn’t the same level of play acting and diving that exists in the men’s game and whilst the overall pace of the game is somewhat slower the skills on display are just as high.  I would urge all of you wherever/whenever you are in the UK to look out for your nearest Ladies team and go along and support them.  Without a much greater level of support the breadth of talent in the ladies game will rapidly wither and more clubs will fail.

Support them or lose them!

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12 comments to Ladies Football a warning for all supporters

  • Gord

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that this failure was designed. That someone in The (sweet) FA managed things so that this sort of problem would materialize too late to save the season. Hoping that it results in the failure of Womens Football.

  • omgarsenal

    I was a co-founder and sponsor of the first women’s league in Québec. It took us 5 years to reach a suitable number of teams’s to provide interesting competition and credibility. Attendance was always a problem but in Canada ( and I believe worldwide) women’s Football is outpacing men’s registration significantly. There are a few problems inherent in female football;

    1)It is slower paced and not as physical as men (some say it needs to be more of a spectacle),

    2)Women’s competitions are not seen as being as interesting athletically as men,

    3)There is still a strong and influential old boys network in football worldwide and this prevents the lady’s game from developing as fast as it should. Former FIA president Sepp Blatter made sexist and idiotic comments about women’s Football that didn’t help!

    4)Girls, like their male counterparts, tend to drop out of football once their interest diminishes but they still are following the game, however the game is not following them.

  • Leon

    ‘Hoping that it results in the failure of Womens Football.’

    Seriously?
    Two of our ex players, Kelly Smith & Rachel Yankey have just been nominated for induction to the Hall Of Fame. Very deserved.

  • Notoverthehill

    A good article, Andrew, but way, way out for the Arsenal Ladies financial costs!

    From Arsenal.com there are 16 Lady players + 1 loanee. The various ladies staff amount to 12 persons.

    From the Arsenal Ladies Limited 2016/2017 Financial Report:

    Gate Receipts were 2016 (£33,000) in 2015 (£18,000)

    Costs borne by Arsenal Holdings, amounted to £1,298,000. The loss on recorded return for Arsenal Ladies was £54,000, plus of course the £1,298,000 included in the Arsenal Holdings.

    Salaries using best estimates with Man City and Chelsea Ladies, plus Arsenal Broadband plus Salary Trends in the U.K.

    I would suggest the average salary would be £40,000 per annum for the 29 employees?

    Total turnover acknowledged for Arsenal Ladies was £277,000, comprising distribution from the competitions £80,000, Grants £57,000 and Other Income ££107,000.

    It is obvious, the ladies football side, needs a regular TV exposure.

    Keep banging the drum, Andrew.

  • omgarsenal

    Leon….Gord meant that the sweet Fa were ¨hoping that……¨Not Gord hoping. That is what one gets by starting a sentence with an unspecified verb (who is hoping?)…

  • Leon

    Right, I get it now.

  • Gord

    About 25 miles from Dawson Creek, is the community of Tomslake. Nominally a German-Canadian community, originally it largely consisted of people of the Sudeten (former Czechoslovakia). Football was a well practised past time there, and some of the players from Tomslake, along with some school teachers in Dawson Creek, often played against or for teams in Edmonton (600km away). They came to Canada just a little before WW-II formally started.

    Many years later, I moved to Dawson Creek to enter high school. One of the girls in my grade (who was from Tomslake) went on to be on the Canadian National Team for 7 years. She has been coaching university soccer (football) for a long time since she quit playing. At one point, I had 3 of her (younger) brothers as room-mates.

    At one point, she played for a team called “Angels’ in Edmonton. I often watched or heard of games where Angels played U18 mens teams. Friendlies. Typically, the U18 mens team lost. Some of the women on Angels in these games were not a heck of a lot older than 18 themselves.

    But, this is Canada. So it must all be BS, right Leon?

  • para

    I used to think that women and men were completely separate in their “sensible” allowed activities.

    It is clear there are differences that have to be taken into account so as not to cause damage.

    But i have realised that the genetics of humans is so messed up that we do have a spectrum of sexes ranging from female to male and the distinction between male and female is often blurred in many cases, however minute.

    So it would be silly to stop a female who wants to play football, we just do not know what effect genetics is having on them.

  • Leon

    Sorry Gord, I misunderstood the last sentence in your first post. Thought it was you yourself who wanted the end of women’s football.
    Don’t know about BS in Canada though. It’s the same the world over isn’t it?

  • Leon

    Having said that, why would the FA want women’s football to fail?

  • Norman14

    There’s more to this story than meets the eye.

    Notts County Ladies was originally the very well supported Lincoln City Ladies.

    A former Lincoln City Chairman, Ray Trew, took over Notts County Football Club, and, with the assistance of the FA, managed to convince everybody that the ladies team would be better off financially, by moving it lock, stock and barrel, to Notts Country. So thats what happened. Unfortunately, Mr Trew’s takeover of Notts County was not profitable at all, and eventually, he got out of the club.

    This whole scenario needs investigation, but because it involves two relatively small clubs in Lincoln and Notts County, and the fact that it is the ladies team that has been scrapped, I doubt anybody will take much notice.

    The obvious solution would be for the FA to facilitate a move of the ladies team back to Lincoln City, who are currently cash rich, thanks to their FA Cup run; have substantial investment, and have, of course, just been promoted back to the Football League.

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