All entries for Wednesday 27 July 2005

July 27, 2005

Good Work Undone – Birmingham City LFC

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This is nothing sort of disgraceful. Just a few months after the successful women's European Championships and Birmingham City, one of the top flight women's clubs, also my adopted club, are probably going out of existance.

Let's get this in perspective. Birmingham players featured strongly in Euro 2005 – Jo Fletcher, Karen Carney and Alex Scott all played at least two games. Imagine a club with David James, Joe Cole and Gary Neville being on the verge of going out of existance. They've already lost two other England starters, Rachel Yankey and Amanda Barr, in recent weeks, most likely due to the situation there.

Alex Scott.

BCLFC have been in a poor situation financially for a while but had managed to build up a good youth academy system which contributed to BCLFC getting promoted the the national premiership only a few years ago. Karen Carney is merely the most high profile graduate of the system. In fact on the surface it looks like BCLFC had most of the components a club would need to survive, good players, a high profile (relatively speaking, I'm not pretending for a moment women's football has the profile it deserves) and a good youth system. So what went wrong?

Money as usual.

The successful women's clubs are the ones which have the support of their male counterparts. A brief glance at the websites of Arsenal, Charlton and Everton shows that these clubs have given some attention to their ladies' teams. It's probably not a coincidence that Arsenal LFC won the league this year whilst the other two fought it out in the FA Cup final. These clubs have recognised that association with the fastest growing sport in the country is probably a good long term investment, both in terms of prestige and, in the future, financially too.

Karen Carney (centre) with Eni Aluko (left) and Fara Williams (right).

What is less encouraging is the continuing rash of withdrawals by the big clubs. Manchester United recently ended their senior women's team, joining the likes of Sunderland and Cardiff in doing so. It seems like a waste of a genuine opportunity for these clubs, and certainly Manchester United can't be doing it for the same reasons as, say, Leeds United who ended their financial association with Leeds United Ladies FC recently for financial reasons. As it happens LULFC signed a sponsorship deal recently which should see them remain afloat. But with this going on in the background it's saldy unsurprising that Birmingham City have refused to help their female counterparts despite the intervention of Trevor Brooking amongst others. Without a sponsor, like Leeds were fortunate to get, the league will start with nine clubs and the future of all those associated with BCLFC is uncertain.

The most galling bit is this – all BCLFC need to survive is £75,000 a year. Some footballers earn that in four days. Big clubs are happy to waste millions on useless, overpriced prima donnas but won't even reach out to invest (not bail out as there is much potential) in the women's game. Didier Drogba/Joey Barton/Harry Kewell or a thriving club stuffed with top class England players? I know which I'd rather have.

July 2005

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