Comment: Fear for future of women’s football

Back the Belles campaign logo.
Back the Belles campaign logo.

I celebrated my 30th birthday on the other Saturday. It was a day where I was surrounded by my nearest and dearest and spoilt rotten, writes Hayley Paterson.

However, there was one present I would’ve taken back to the shop in a heartbeat if I could - and that was a 38-page document from the FA stating the reasons why Doncaster Rovers Belles’ appeal against relegation was rejected.

Saturday noon time it was announced. A time smack bang in the middle of an incredibly busy sporting diary of events taking place such as F1, British Lions and Wimbledon. Good day to bury bad news possibly?

I’ve read (and re-read) the FA document and statement and it’s left me scratching my head in all honesty.

It also saddened me that not one female was on the FA’s Independent Appeals Panel. Yes, there was during the selection process but for me there should’ve also have been female representation at the appeals stage.

In the background information, the document gives one of the best facts I think any club would be proud of - between 1978 and 1993, Belles lost just ONE league match.

That’s the legacy we all know and what has ultimately helped to put women’s football on the map. But just years later, our only ever-presents of the top flight have been turfed out of WSL1 and face life in WSL2. Unjust you might say?

One of the main reasons for the failure to meet WSL1 ‘standards’ involved the Belles being third in line for use of the Keepmoat Stadium facilities (behind Rovers and Dons) so may have to reschedule games from time to time.

However, as my colleague Liam Hoden suggested on Twitter - Rovers have had to reschedule because of the upcoming Jetski Championships, so should they be sent crashing out of their division as a result?

It might sound extreme and there are, of course, other factors but that’s the sad picture that has been painted for us.

Further concerns raised by the FA included marketing and commercial strategies.

Unfortunately, not at any point was there mention of performances on the pitch. That’s still my biggest concern.

What I can assure readers is that we will continue to cover this issue. For me personally, this process has stunted the women’s game which is something I never, ever wanted.

A large part of me hopes that the Belles have enough left in the tank to continue to challenge the decision despite being psychologically battered from the get-go.

But regardless of what happens, I’m sure the Belles will be as committed as ever on the pitch despite only having pride to play for this term. Hopefully 2014 could be the year the Belles bounce back into WSL1, where they belong.