This was the title of Pete Davies' book about a season with one of the truly famous women's football team in the game, the Doncaster Belles, now known as the Doncaster Rovers Belles, or just 'Donny Belles' to their faithful followers.
Founded in 1969 they are now ilnked with Doncaster Rovers FC and play many games at the Keepmoat Stadium, sharing it with the men's team and the local rugby team. They are one of only two non London clubs to have won the FA Women's Premier League National Divison, in 1992 and 1994.
In 1994 BBC screened a documentary called The Belles,and a year later Pete Davies' book was published and in 2000 the squad released the first ever FA Womens Cup Final song entitled "Northern Pride". In 1998 a BBC drama series Playing the Field, inspired by The Belles ran for 5 series until 2002.
Today they are faced with yet another crisis as they battle to save the soul of women's football. Last Tuesday at Wembley Stadium, the home of the FA, the Football Association Independent Appeals Board was in session. www.doncasterroversbelles.co.uk. The Belles have EIGHT national team players on their books. They will probably lose THEM ALL if they don't win their appeal.
The Belles were pleading for their survival and future and the direction of the women's game and the power of money. After ONLY ONE GAME INTO THE SEASON the FA announced via a press release, that they would be relegated from the Women's Super League Div I at the end of this year. Not because of form on the pitch mind you, but because of the new FA strategy. They would be replaced by Manchester City who last season finished fourth in THE DIVISION BELOW!
All the current clubs and potential newcomers,(a total of 30 applied), had to bid for a spot on the new two-tier WSL. Insiders believe that their groundsharing with the men's team, the lower wages and their commercial plan were inferier. They are financially prudent and balance their books. Obviously the Sky Blues have loads of cash from Arabia. However the other seven Super League teams were up in arms. Vic Akers, legendary coach and now GM of Arsenal Ladies called the decision " MORALLY SCANDALOUS".
The Belles have received support world wide and you can add your name to the SAVE THE BELLES Appeal petition RIGHT NOW. The FA have also moved the Lincoln City Ladies franchise to Notts County, 30 miles away, after former Lincoln and now Notts County owner Ray Trew promised more money, while Nottingham Forest Ladies, who were doing very well thank you, were ignored. In the lower league the Leeds United Ladies, currently near the top of their league and FA League Cup Finalists have been demoted to a lower level and replaced by Durham !! www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/doncasterbelles. also check www.wsc.co.uk
The FA have done some good things about the women's game in recent years and the publicitity surrounding the very successful Olympic Tournament and the success of the national team has worked wonders. A few years ago I went to watch Leeds United lose to Arsenal in the FA Cup Final at Nottingham Forest's City Ground in front of 22,000. Many clubs have better relationships now with the mens club.
I went to see Leeds host and beat Manchester City 2-1 at Elland Road, and three days later Leeds lost in pk's to Aston Villa in the League Cup Final at York City's Bootham Crescent. Liverpool Ladies, Sunderland, Arsenal, Charlton and others have played the odd game or so at the big stadiums.
The new WSL 1 will feature Arsenal, Chelsea, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Everton, Liverpool, Notts County, Manchester City. WSL 2 has Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham Women, London Bees(Brentford), Millwall Lionesses, Oxford United, Reading, Sunderland, Watford, Yeovil Town.
The 20 or so women's national team players under FA contract-about £24,000 a year I believe,- are spread among the top teams. One solution would be to reduce the salaries of some of the people at the F.A. I am told that their average salary is around £90,000. Please correct me if I am wrong!.
This coming Monday or Tuesday The Belles will hear their fate from www.thefa.com
One solution is to increase the top tier to 10 teams and 'promote' The Belles and Sunderland, as a suggestion, although the SWEET FA is not very good at handling suggestions. Please pass around the petition world wide.