Football: Winning and Losing – Colin Shorrock

At it base element, football comes down to one thing – winning. Players want to win, fans want to watch them win. This brings cups, medals, promotion. Yet in women’s football, it appears to the FA it means something else.

STABILITY, FINANCE & DEVELOPMENT

Haven’t they forgotten, that it’s about winning? Yes, the FAWSL has been set up with the prime aim of making women’s football the second biggest (most played) sport behind men’s football. It has also been set-up to give the England Women’s National squad the best opportunity to win in the Euro’s and the World Cup.

The FAWSL (along with Central Contracts) allow England players to be virtually semi-pro footballers with a decent income.  This means that the England captain doesn’t have to fit in a training session before the day job. At what cost? The FAWSL protects the minority, but what about the rest?

The FA WPL – Premier League Cup Final used to be a massive game, now it’s a side-show, a distraction.  The FA hasn’t even bothered to advertise that the Final is taking place this Sunday (May 5th). If it has, I haven’t seen it. The FA Girls Cup is being heavily advertised, I’m yet to see an advert for the League Cup Final.

WINNING

In now what seems the distant past. the FA Women’s Premier League was run on the basis of an old-fashioned concept. The winners of the league (Arsenal!) entered the UEFA Women’s Champions League, whilst the bottom two dropped down to the FA WPL – North and South. Everybody had a chance, it was down to how you played on the pitch – winning and losing.

FULHAM

When Blackburn Rovers won promotion to the Women’s Premier League – National Division, they earned the right to play against the big names: Charlton Athletic, Fulham, Doncaster Belles, etc.

Fulham were once Champions of England, backed by Al Fayed’s money they won on the pitch. They earned the right to compete at the top level. Once, Al Fayed’s money was gone, the good players left and Fulham struggled to stay up and eventually went down.  Fulham WFC went under soon after. I remember them well, as Blackburn Rovers had to some cracking games against them.

Charlton Athletic was a powerhouse in the game, with a string of top players: Casey Stoney, Jo Potter, Katie Holtham, Natasha Dowie, Eniola Aluko. Then, the parent club pulled the plug, the top players left and the following season Charlton went down. The last game was a hammering by Everton, containing Natasha Dowie.

Under the FA WSL expansion, Doncaster Belles (one of the most famous names in the game) have been demoted to FAWSL 2 for 2014. Why? Is it down to results or finance? Belles have played one league game this season! Does the FA prefer the ambition and financial resources of Manchester City to the Belles? it appears so. 

Belles may one day get back into the FAWSL 1, but they’ll have to do it the old fashion way – by winning. It’s understandable that, John Buckley (Belles’ manager) feels more than a little confused at this decision. He feels that his players have earned the right to play at the top flight.

FAWSL 2

Lincoln has benefited most from the FAWSL, they moved from the FAWPL – North to the FAWSL three years ago. They signed a host of England internationals and the City of Lincoln embraced the concept of summer football and they backed the Lady Imps. Women’s football had a real chance of developing in the City of Lincoln. Yet, in the summer of 2014 the Lady Imps will be a thing of the past. Lincoln will not have a women’s football team. The Lady Imps will become Magpies and play as Notts County.

The Lincoln fans feel betrayed, they feel that the team that they support has committed the ultimate betrayal – it’s walked away from its supporters. Why? No reason has been given (yet). Perhaps, someone has forgotten that football is tribal and plays a huge role in the community it is based. The Lady Imps fans feel let down and very bitter. Lincoln still has a season to complete and its going to be a very difficult down at Sincil Bank. Football fans never forget and rarely forgive.

REJECTED

Amongst the Aston Villa’s, Watford’s and Sunderland’s, the names Durham, Yeovil and Oxford stand out. These three clubs have won the battle to join the revolution.

Durham? Durham is currently South Durham & Cesteria, competing in the Northern Combination. They have earned the right to a place in the WSL 2 ahead of Leeds United. They won the right to play WSL football in the boardroom, not on the pitch.

Leeds United / Carnegie are past winners of the League Cup and are in the Final again this weekend (it may have passed you by). Leeds has missed out for the second time. They, along with numerous other clubs face a battle to keep their 1st team players. No doubt many players from Leeds, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United will have already looked at directions to Durham.

Leeds United has already been through the chaos that occurs when a club, loses out on FAWSL status. For the 2nd time in three years they are likely to see the 1st team decimated. The club officials and manager will be left to re-build a 1st team that will be stuck in a league that nobody wants to play in….the Northern League. 

This league and its Southern counterpart will be where the rejected and the unwanted clubs will be forced to play next season. Devoid of any media attention, this league will play in the shadows. A league that no player wants to play in or fans want to watch. 

The women’s football revolution of big crowds hasn’t reached the winter league (FAWPL). The winter league doesn’t even have a Twitter account or website and its big day will pass by largely un-noticed on Sunday. 

With proper marketing/promotion and media, the women’s football could become a national sport.  A sport enjoyed by fans throughout the country. With the winter league clubs feeling marginalised (again), it’s another missed opportunity. 

The feeling is that these clubs aren’t wanted by the FA. Are they just to make up the numbers in the FA Women’s Cup? It gives the competition some credibility, as basically it’s just for the 8 top teams. In all honesty no-one else has a chance anymore.

REVOLUTION

Perhaps, it’s time for another revolution. Perhaps it’s time for the ‘rejected and unwanted’ to break away and form a rival summer league. Is it time for a National Women’s Football League (NWFL)? 

If left to fester in the bleak winter months, more clubs are likely to go the way of Fulham and nobody will really notice. The FAWSL has all the money and soon they’ll take the remaining quality players from the clubs in the FAWPL.

Without a revolution, women’s football outside the FAWSL will wither and die. It will simply just become recreational football, a game without focus. It will be no different to Sunday League pub football, a game that’s played but never watched. 

Maybe in 2014 – the NWFL can become a reality, but it’ll take a massive leap of faith.

The debate was started…. 

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