Lincoln City Lady Imps have announced through Chairman Geoff Adams that they will be the first English Women's Football Club to have their own stadium and practice facilities. They expect ground breaking early in 2008 on a small 2,000 seat stadium with a third generation artificial pitch and three training pitches, including a indoor 'dome', funded privately.
According to Adams, "We get nothing fom the men's club and are going it alone, like most Women's teams in this country". I personally have found 5 women's matches in the last week postponed at the last minute due to the weather, all of the stadiums owned by someone other than the women's club. Only Arsenal, European Champions , and maybe Chelsea, have a decent budget, but that certainly isn't limitless. The founder and coach of the Lady Gunners, Vic Akers is in fact paid as the men's first team kit man. I was sitting not too far away from him at The Riverside, home of Middlesborough where they lost 1-2 to Boro last Sunday in The Premiership. We had been due to watch a women's match in nearby Sunderland, called off a few hours earlier, so went to Middlesbourough for the exciting home win.
I was recently in South Africa where 4 women had been recruited to the Lady Gunners. They had mistakenly thought that they would be well paid, but only one of them got playing time and £125 match fee. There was no money for just being on the squad. Both Arsenal and Everton managed to win Tesco FA Women's League Cup semi-final this weekend but there is no money to be earned from reaching the final of this competition. Leeds United Ladies lost to Arsenal in the final minutes in the final at Scunthorpe 1-0 last season and received nothing for the honour. Luckily Leeds to Scunthorpe is only an hour or so journey and no overnight stay required. I watched Chelsea play at Leeds United Ladies at the small ground at Tadcaster Albion a month ago. The Blues had travelled up North the night before and stayed in a hotel in nearby York.
When Cardiff City Ladies make long journeys to Leeds, Sunderland, Blackburn etc. they travel in shared cars on the day. Leeds United Ladies got dumped by the men's club who had given them around £80,000 a year of funding. Leeds Ladies now expect each of the players on their 3 squads to come up with at least 1 individual £250 sponsorship, and the coaches, who turn up in all sorts of weather for practices and matches are glad to receive very small payments and enjoy their work and contribution to the game. Manchester United, Charlton Athletic, Fulham and Bristol City have dropped their women's programmes in the last couple of years, though outside funding revived Charlton Ladies, but not before they had lost all their players who had played Arsenal in front of 25,000 fans at the City Ground, Nottingham in the FA Women's Cup Final in May.
England's Ladies team went to the FIFA Women's World Cup in China and did quite well, and were flown business class to Shanghai, but their payment of £40.00 a day was less than minimum wage in UK., and players had to take time off their 'real' jobs. Crowds at Women's Premier League matches are in the 200-400 range and lots of volunteers keep the league possible. If you look at the league table on www.thefa.com you will see that some teams have only played 8 and others 15 matches so far this season. Its hard to get any enthusiasm when half the matches are postponed due to the weather or international duty. Sue Smith of Leeds United Ladies has a half page weekly column in the Yorkshire Evening Post, has her own business and with her unusual hair-do and super enthusiasm is worth her weight in gold in publicity. The club used to utiize the superb facilities of the men's club at Thorpe Arches near Wetherby, but that is no longer allowed. Leeds Met Carnegie a local university has entered an agreement with the club and provide playing gear, warm ups and more, and is something that other clubs should look into-links with local univesrities.
Meanwhile, across the North Sea, the KNVB The Dutch F.A. have reorganized their national womens league and crowds and sponsorships have increased.