Mayor Ros Jones has joined the fight to save women’s football team Doncaster Rovers Belles from a controversial league restructuring plan.
The game’s governing body wants to re-organise the Women’s Super League - the sport’s top division, which will mean Belles, the game’s most decorated and successful team, being kicked out and into the second tier to make way for Manchester City LFC.
And the plan has met with angry protests - with more than 5,000 supporters demanding the FA rethink the decision which will take effect from the start of next season by signing an online petition.
Now Doncaster’s new mayor has added her voice to the growing outcry against the move and joined campaigners in the Frenchgate Centre along with Doncaster Council chief executive Jo Miller and town crier Henry Cryer at an event staged to mark the forthcoming Women’s FA Cup Final being held in the town later this month.
The trio posed for photographs with banners hitting out at the move while shoppers also showed their backing by joining the protest, which was pulled together in just a matter of hours after the full extent of the proposal emerged.
Fan Tony Greenall, who is helping to spearhead the campaign along with Glen Wilson, editor of Doncaster Rovers’ fanzine Popular Stand, said: “It is a totally ridiculous decision - absolutely bizarre and farcical.
“The Belles deserve to be in the Super League on merit, not to be kicked out to make way for a team with a bigger name.”
Banner-wielding campaigners handed out leaflets and rang bells at a photo call for the arrival of the Women’s FA Cup trophy, in town to promote the showpiece final at the Keepmoat Stadium on May 26.
Added Tony: “The demonstration went well and we had a lot of positive response from people. Many didn’t realise what the situation was but when we explained it to them, they were disgusted.
“It seems that the Belles’ ground is good enough to hold the cup final, but the team is not deemed good enough to play in the league. I think it is rubbing salt into the wounds.”
There are growing calls for the FA to explain its decision, which was announced one game into the current season, but apart from a brief statement outlining the changes, FA officials have so far remained tight-lipped while an appeals process takes place, the outcome of which is expected to be known by late May or early June.
The Belles are one of the most famous teams in women’s football, having won the league title on two occasions and the FA Cup six times since forming in 1969.