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Not So United In Manchester

Women’s football is struggling to come to terms with Manchester United Football Club’s decision to end their association with the fastest growing and top female sport in England, following the Lancashire sides announcement that they will no longer be running their senior ladies team once the current 2004 / 2005 season comes to an end.

Instead, the only contribution to the women’s game by the richest football club in the world will be refined to just the coaching of youngsters. Although the development of youngsters is integral to our game, femaleSOCCER.net has found three examples set by Arsenal, Leeds United and Chelsea, which highlight what the positive effect of commitment from a club to their women’s section can be.
What’s The Story?
Here at femaleSOCCER.net, where we receive over 3.2 million hits per month, we are fully aware of the potential and interest in women’s football. This is what make's it so hard to understand why Manchester United FC, one of the biggest names in world football, have opted to restrict their association with the female sport to just the coaching of girls up to the age of 16 through the club's community scheme. Philip Townsend, United's director of communications explains the controversial move.

"Our aims in the women's game are best served by concentrating on youngsters. We want to be community based and our resources are better deployed at the level of school-age children rather than adults."

Ray Kiddell, the vice-chairman of the Football Association, who heads the FA’s women’s football committee, is surprised by the decision.

“It’s very disappointing. The progress of women's football can be really helped by professional clubs taking women's teams under their umbrella and it's a blow to the game that a great club like Manchester United will no longer be doing this."

It’s difficult not to agree with Ray Kiddells comments. The majority of top teams in women’s football all receive support from their relevant clubs and teams that don’t have such a close relationship with their male clubs, are often those that struggle for success.
The Arsenal Success Story
Arsenal Ladies manager Vic Akers is always quick to praise the assistance that Arsenal FC provides for their semi-professional Ladies team and feels it provides the basis for the teams continued dominance of the women’s game.

“We receive great support from the club, especially some excellent backing from Chairman David Dein. Thanks to the tremendous Academy we’ve set up, we have girls of various ages who are progressing well through the ranks and some of our senior players are also employed by the club to help in this area”.

Midfielders Clare Wheatley and Ciara Grant, along with Faye White have roles within Arsenal FC as development officers, overseeing the youth set up and co-ordinating the female aspect of the club. Faye, who will be leading England into this summers 2005 European Championships, is pleased to be involved.

“I work with the centres of excellence schools, trying to get girls involved in the sports and to help them improve as players. When the position became available, it interested me straight away. To work in the sport that I love is extremely enjoyable”.
Chelsea Moving On Up
Chelsea, who are currently leading the Women’s Premier League Southern Division, is another example that highlights the growing awareness of top clubs towards the women’s game. At the start of the 2004/2005 season Chelsea FC took control of Chelsea Ladies with a view to significant funding for training, matchdays, officials and coaching. First team manager George Michaelas is pleased with the progress.

“We were self funded, but Chelsea FC has since taken over and we now have a closer relationship with the club which is great. At half-time during Chelsea’s last home game of the 2003/2004 Premiership season, the girls went on the pitch and paraded the Surrey County Cup which we had just won. It’s good for the team to get exposure like that. Chelsea is a big name and I’d like to think that with euro2005 coming up, helping to give the game a higher profile, we could receive even more backing in the future”.
United At Leeds
Another success story in the ladies game that shows how commitment from a club can help is at FA Nationwide Women’s Premier League side Leeds United Ladies. Manager Julie Chipchase is grateful to the support that Leeds United Ladies receive from Leeds United Football Club and is happy with how things are progressing, including the Ladies individual shirt sponsorship.

“We are very well supported and along with the male sides have access to the first class training facilities available at Thorp Arch. We also receive some funding and unlike the situation at some other clubs, we are certainly very much part of the set up here”.

Quotes from Ray Kiddell and Philip Townsend are courtesy of Source.

Teams: Manchester United, Arsenal Academy, Arsenal Ladies, Chelsea Ladies, England Women, Leeds United Ladies

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