On 23 February, over 10,000 fans witnessed Coventry City slip to a defeat against Crewe Alexandra. 24 hours later, and less than two miles away, Coventry City Ladies hosted Manchester City Ladies in front of a crowd of around 60.
By Jonathan Hooke
On the face of things, you could be forgiven for thinking that anyone associated with the Ladies team would be disappointed and disillusioned with the stark contrast in figures. But you would be wrong. Such is the contrast between male and female football, that playing in front of a fraction of 10,000 is merely an aspiration for those who step out onto the Bedworth Oval pitch every fortnight.
Another contrast is the remarkable disparity in money within each game, and as such, Coventry City Ladies are always looking to raise funds to aid them throughout the year. They have held several fundraising events and activities over the course of the season, including three bucket shakes outside the Ricoh Arena on matchdays. The most recent – against Crewe – raised around £700, which will go a long way to helping the club to survive in the short-term.
‘’I am delighted to learn that we raised £700 at the bucket shake on Sunday,’’ defender Natalie Wilcox admitted. ‘’The bucket shakes are so effective because they also help to put the ladies out in the community, raising the awareness of the club and consequently increasing the support of the ladies side. Recent home matches have seen new fans in attendance and we hope this can continue.’’
Exposure is vital in increasing the awareness of the club, and the fundraising events have offered opportunities to converse with the general public. Midfielder Helen Dermody – one of the longest serving players at the club – believes that such actions will slowly bring more and more people through the turnstiles at the Bedworth Oval.
‘’The increase in awareness of Coventry City Ladies will help us in the long run too,’’ Dermody said. ‘’More interest has been shown in the club, as people were recognising us on Saturday at the bucket shake and asking us questions about the club.’’
It is easy to forget the sheer extent of costs to run a football club at this level. The money that the Sky Blue Ladies generate, funds everything from the cost of the ground and training facilities, to travelling costs to away fixtures. However, without the money that the club receive, they would not be able to compete in the FA Women’s Premier League and certainly not be able to attract the kind of high-quality players that have stabilised the Sky Blues at their current level.
Whilst there is no getting away from the fact that there will always be a divide between men’s and women’s football, Wilcox thinks more and more people are becoming conscious of the fact that there is a women’s team representing the city at a high level.
‘’It demonstrates how the people of Coventry support the ladies and value the contribution that we make to the club. In terms of helping the club in the future, the funds raised are vital to ensure we can continue to operate within Premier League requirements. The money really is a massive help.’’
On the pitch however, things have been a lot brighter for the Sky Blue Ladies over the past couple of seasons. Last season the club finished in 6th position and just one point behind 3rd placed Aston Villa, as well as clinching the Birmingham FA County Cup for the first time in their history.
So what does the future hold for Coventry City Ladies? ‘’The next step is for us to carry on competing at the highest level, gain more exposure as a club and hopefully get the bid to allow us to play in the FA Women’s Super League in the 2014 season,’’ explained Dermody.
Everyone at Coventry City Ladies would like to thank both Coventry City Football Club for giving them the opportunity to raise funds for such a cause, and fans of Coventry City and opposing clubs, who have donated throughout the season.
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