New season, same old problems

The Women’s Super League Spring Series is underway.

League 2 clubs started a few weeks back, and today was the start of the mini season for the League 1 clubs. Except for two of them; Arsenal Ladies have a day off because their opponents, Notts County Ladies, were wound up a couple of days ago.

Notts County used to be Lincoln a few years back, and they started their WSL life with a lots of players from Leeds Carnegie Ladies, after we folded in 2010 – so some of the players currently at Notts County Ladies have had to deal with this twice in seven years. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Whose fault is it?

One of the reasons Notts folded was because they owed money to HMRC. No sane, normal, sensible business person should be getting themselves in that situation, because HMRC will always win. So on the one hand this is poor business by the owners.

But on the other hand, the Football Association has to take some responsibility – they are the ones who created the WSL, and set the rules by which teams are admitted.

It was the FA who wanted to improve the England team by moving to a summer game. It’s now moving back to a winter season… to help improve the England team.

[Talking of “summer league”… how many games were played in June or July during the last seven years? Not many, as the grounds that clubs rented pitch time from would use those two months to let the turf rest and regrow.]

It was the FA who pump-primed the new league with funding so that players could be paid and professional clubs set up. That money was never adequately replaced, and most of the WSL 1 clubs brought in overseas players. Good publicity, but not in keeping with the ideal of improving the England team.

Back to the future

Ten years after my first foray into the world of women’s football we’re almost back where we were, except we have two national divisions instead of one plus two regional ones.

The FA will say that attendance figures have grown. I’d dispute this for two reasons. Firstly, clubs were never that great at counting attendance in the old Premier League days (trust me – been there, done that). Secondly, and partly as a result, there’s no way to show that attendances as a whole have improved. My suspicion is that some lower league clubs have lost fans to the larger clubs; the pool hasn’t grown it’s just been redistributed.

It’s great that some players can almost make a career out professional women’s football – and I know a few of them, so I don’t begrudge them their success – but they are the exception rather than the rule. Where’s the coverage of the lower league clubs? How are they expected to recruit if no-one knows they exist? Even the Spring Series games are only good enough for web streaming by the BBC, they don’t even make it to Red Button.

Something’s got to change. Again.

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