It emerged yesterday that Nottingham Forest Ladies Football Club is likely to fold without significant funding. Steve Wright argues that its future is an important part of the club and the community…
The internet has been ablaze with rage over the situation with Nottingham Forest Ladies, who announced this week that they were on the verge of closure due to Nottingham Forest FC withdrawing its funding for the club from the current season and for the foreseeable future.
There is no obligation on NFFC to fund the ladies’ team and some fans have been quick to state this and argue that owner, Fawaz Al-Hasawi, is spending enough already and it is wrong to demand more of him. The point here is not that anyone thinks that Fawaz should be more generous with his money but rather that he should first and foremost meet the obligations he has already committed to the ladies: in other words this season’s funding; and secondly that as owner he should recognise that we are a club – a community resource – and therefore we should be making space for everyone to participate.
It is true that Fawaz currently owns the club and that he has put significant amounts of money into it but that does not detract from the fact that Nottingham Forest is a community enterprise that exists well beyond his ownership and investment. Any owner has a responsibility to be a guardian of the club, ensuring its stability and sustainability and to engage fully with its community.
The ladies have been playing in this current guise and under the Forest name for 30 years and they have worked hard to build a record of success and a reputation for grassroots football development. This was acknowledged only this week when Fay Glover was given a special award from the Football Association for her work at the club. They are a part of Nottingham Forest, they are doing fabulous work with girls across the County at all age ranges and they deserve to be recognised and supported.
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Instead they have been cast aside and in such a way as to threaten their very existence. In fact the wording of NFFC’s statement on the matter seems to imply that the aim of withdrawing funding – or at least a convenient consequence – is actually to force the club to close so that a replacement can be started up.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the whole debate, however, is the openly misogynistic response of some male Forest fans. When you combine this instant and uninhibited reaction with the recent Miley Cyrus media circus and Channel 4’s documentary about a generation of boys raised on internet porn, it paints a frightening picture that only highlights how vital it is that we promote and support positive female role models.
With over 70,000 people watching Team GB defeat Brazil at Wembley during London 2012, and the FA’s five-year plan, women’s football is a sport on the rise with over 250,000 playing every month in England.
We have on our doorstep, and under our club umbrella, an established and proven structure that has nationally recognised leaders and a track record for giving women and girls the opportunity to not only play football but also develop into leading figures as players and coaches in this country and abroad.
We also have a great opportunity to promote women in football and make a strong statement about the values and ethos of this football club. Make no mistake that the current course of action is still making a very clear statement, but it isn’t a good one.
Anyone interested in sponsoring or volunteering for Nottingham Forest Ladies FC club, please contact Steven Gray on 07870156937.