The Belles’ Story, and retaining the dignity of women’s football in England
"Football shouldn’t be about administrative decisions. No-one has a divine right to play at the highest level forever but the beautiful game should be about the meritocratic winning or losing of promotion or relegation after a season full of highs and lows."
Around these parts, you’ll often hear us crowing about financial stability because it’s a topic crucial to the long-term sustainability of the professional game. We’ve already seen the first hints at what can happen when financial support is dominated by a handful of clubs: increased ticket prices, leagues without any real sense of competition, and a greater divide between fans and their idols. It’s understandable then, that we get a bit touchy when people overlook the significance of financial reform. But in this case, even the purists would admit that we’ve witnessed a travesty.
The Doncaster Rovers Belles, mainstays of the first division of women’s soccer in England for more than two decades, and one of England’s most successful football clubs full-stop, had their effective relegation confirmed by the English FA this weekend, only a few games into their current season.
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Driven by an encouraging goal to make women’s soccer one of England’s most popular sports, the FA are in the midst of reforming the current structure of the women’s game. That means new sponsors, greater television coverage, and the creation of a new first and second division, with membership decided by an independent commission formed by the FA. 
And yet, despite boasting a 22-year history in the top flight and residing in the current league’s finest facility, shared with the Doncaster Rovers of League 1, the FA withheld an invitation to the new top division, “due primarily to [Doncaster] being unable to satisfactorily meet minimum facility requirements, alongside further concerns on their commercial and marketing strategies.” Instead, the league elected to invite a second-division team backed by the financial support of Manchester City…
The Belles, of course, aren’t the only team suffering because of the shakeup. Despite currently sitting within reach of promotion to the top flight, the Leeds United Ladies have not received an invitation to either division. Perhaps worse, the Lincoln Ladies only managed a spot in the new top league after confirming that they would rebrand themselves as Notts County, moving 30 miles from their current home. 
Don’t get us wrong, financial stability is a target we should all be focusing on, but not to the extent that financial partnerships and marketing potential are more significant than results on the pitch. Because if the game doesn’t matter, why should we care?
Here’s to the Belles, we’ll follow you wherever you go. [Posted by Maxi]
If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to visit Popular Stand, a Doncaster-focused blog/fanzine that’s recently offered a great deal of in-depth analysis on the Belles’ struggles with the English Football Association.

The Belles’ Story, and retaining the dignity of women’s football in England

"Football shouldn’t be about administrative decisions. No-one has a divine right to play at the highest level forever but the beautiful game should be about the meritocratic winning or losing of promotion or relegation after a season full of highs and lows."

Around these parts, you’ll often hear us crowing about financial stability because it’s a topic crucial to the long-term sustainability of the professional game. We’ve already seen the first hints at what can happen when financial support is dominated by a handful of clubs: increased ticket prices, leagues without any real sense of competition, and a greater divide between fans and their idols. It’s understandable then, that we get a bit touchy when people overlook the significance of financial reform. But in this case, even the purists would admit that we’ve witnessed a travesty.

The Doncaster Rovers Belles, mainstays of the first division of women’s soccer in England for more than two decades, and one of England’s most successful football clubs full-stop, had their effective relegation confirmed by the English FA this weekend, only a few games into their current season.

Driven by an encouraging goal to make women’s soccer one of England’s most popular sports, the FA are in the midst of reforming the current structure of the women’s game. That means new sponsors, greater television coverage, and the creation of a new first and second division, with membership decided by an independent commission formed by the FA

And yet, despite boasting a 22-year history in the top flight and residing in the current league’s finest facility, shared with the Doncaster Rovers of League 1, the FA withheld an invitation to the new top division, due primarily to [Doncaster] being unable to satisfactorily meet minimum facility requirements, alongside further concerns on their commercial and marketing strategies.” Instead, the league elected to invite a second-division team backed by the financial support of Manchester City…

The Belles, of course, aren’t the only team suffering because of the shakeup. Despite currently sitting within reach of promotion to the top flight, the Leeds United Ladies have not received an invitation to either division. Perhaps worse, the Lincoln Ladies only managed a spot in the new top league after confirming that they would rebrand themselves as Notts County, moving 30 miles from their current home

Don’t get us wrong, financial stability is a target we should all be focusing on, but not to the extent that financial partnerships and marketing potential are more significant than results on the pitch. Because if the game doesn’t matter, why should we care?

Here’s to the Belles, we’ll follow you wherever you go. [Posted by Maxi]

If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to visit Popular Stand, a Doncaster-focused blog/fanzine that’s recently offered a great deal of in-depth analysis on the Belles’ struggles with the English Football Association.

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    This is such a disgrace
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    This actually makes me feel sick to the pit of my stomach.
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