Women’s football is once again preparing to be thrust into the mainstream as we approach this year’s staging of the European Championships in the Netherlands.
As England and Scotland prepare to do battle on Wednesday (July 17th) evening, in front of a large terrestrial television audience on Channel 4, a question that always arises when the women’s game comes up in conversation will once again seek an answer.
Why don’t Manchester United have a ladies team?
It’s a valid question too, why don’t the self styled ‘Biggest Club in the World’ have a ladies team, something to act as an inspiration for the legions of young female supporters the club possesses and more importantly another vehicle to continue the tradition of what our great club is built upon, winning trophies.
On the eve of England hosting the 2005 edition of the women’s European Championships, Manchester United, now under the control of the Glazer family, disbanded their ladies team, the reason cited being that it was not part of the club’s ‘core business’.
Fast forward twelve years and women’s football is now more popular than ever, thanks partly to increased exposure from the BBC and BT Sport, the popularity was heightened following the England national team’s third place finish at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
United have always been proud to be a unique club but as of 2017 being the only Premier League outfit to not field a ladies team at any senior level is not really something to be proud of, especially following an upswing in attendance and viewing figures at WSL (Women’s Super League) fixtures.
This isn’t to say that United don’t have a provision for talented young girls, the club offer talent sessions and run teams at age grade levels through the Manchester United Foundation, the highest level of girls youth team even made the final of the FA Youth Cup last season.
Think back to the ‘Class of 92’ and their progression from the youth team to the first team and beyond, if none of those players had graduated to the first team, essentially their Youth Cup success would count for nothing and as long as the club don’t have a senior women’s team, the message being broadcast is that reaching the Youth Cup final doesn’t really matter.
Where do the talented ones go after they reach 16 and are no longer covered by the club’s youth talent policy? The answer is simple, Manchester City!!!
Come on, this has to be the biggest incentive to form a senior team, how much longer can the club go on knowing that they are losing talented young players to that lot down the road, they’d pull out all the stops to ensure a 16 year old male player didn’t become a blue so it’s really high time they did it for a girl too.
Remind yourself of what the Glazers’ reasoning for scrapping the women’s team, it was apparently not part of the club’s ‘core business’, a sentiment echoed whenever the club is forced into scribbling a reply to the big question along with attempting to palm off any criticism by claiming that the situation is ‘under review’.
Not part of the ‘core business’? so we can spend £89 million on a player we actually should never have let go in the first place and burst the bank to keep our best players tied to the club by adding another zero to the numbers on their contract, but they’re trying to tell us they can’t find the funds (probably a fraction of the wages we have just promised to Romelu Lukaku) to field a team to challenge in the WSL.
It really wouldn’t be hard, have the games at Leigh (just like the U23s) and play one or two special ones against the likes of Liverpool or City at Old Trafford, you could probably even get away with letting the fans in for free to those ones, the benefits will be multiple.
Player recruitment wouldn’t be an issue, let’s be frank, youngsters don’t attend football classes and camps that are run by clubs they don’t support, announce a women’s team and you’d have the female portion of the red half of the city queueing round the block for a trial. Established international players would also snap your hands off to join the club, the allure of Old Trafford and the prestige of pulling the red shirt on knows no gender.
If the decision has to be boiled down to being a business one, if a recognised player such as Alex Morgan of the USA or Alex Scott of Arsenal and England could be signed then sales of female shirts might even be spiked, these days a 14 year old girl supporting City is just as inclined to have a shirt with Steph Houghton’s name emblazoned on it as she is Sergio Aguero. Give young girls something to aim for and eventually they’ll repay your faith.
Who knows, one day the WSL trophy, women’s FA Cup and maybe even the women’s Champions League may nestle in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet after we’ve beaten City into second place. Come on United, it’s not difficult.