Notts County, one of English women’s football’s top teams, has folded only two days before they were due to begin their Women’s Super League One (WSL) season away to Arsenal.
The members of the ladies team, a constituent part of the men’s club, which is recognised as the world’s oldest professional association club, were notified of the liquidation only fifteen minutes before the announcement to the press.
Both men’s and women’s clubs were purchased by local businessman Alan Hardy in December 2016, with the club crippled by debt and facing a winding-up petition.
On the eve of the new women’s football season beginning, a decision was taken that the ladies team could not be sustained.
“Alan Hardy has reluctantly admitted defeat in his bid to save Notts County Ladies Football Club after facing a near £1m bill to keep the club afloat this season”, a club statement read.
“The club has today been officially withdrawn from the Women’s Super League”, the statement continued.
“To continue would have been little short of financial suicide” – Alan hardy
The club had, they say, been in discussion with two Premier League clubs who were interested in taking over the business, protecting the players and staff, but claim the Football Association (FA) refused to sanction any such transfer of ownership.
Club owner Hardy had to accept defeat in his bid to continue operating the ladies side, claiming the “numbers simply do not stack up”.
“I am devastated that we cannot continue the Ladies project”, said Hardy, “but to continue would have been little short of financial suicide.
“I was extremely concerned that to operate Notts County Ladies for the current season was going to cost approximately £500,000 with total projected incoming revenue only £28,000”, explained Hardy.
The FA said they were “aware of the situation” and “liaising with all involved parties”.
“Our priority is the welfare of the players”, the FA spokesperson added.
“We will work closely with them, the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) and wider stakeholders to support them at this time.”
The team only linked up with Notts County in 2014, having previously competed as Lincoln Ladies before their relocation. The current squad contained England internationals Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jo Potter and Jade Moore as well as Scotland midfielder Leanne Crichton.
With the transfer window closed for English clubs, it remains unclear if any of the players registered to Notts County will be able to sign with other WSL clubs this season.
“People were upset and crying. their livelihoods have been ruined” – carly telford
Those concerns prompted midfielder Danielle Buet to take to social media to declare she had been left “jobless and homeless”.
Those sentiments were echoed by seven-times capped England goalkeeper Telford, who claimed the squad were “in shock” at the announcement.
“It doesn’t seem real”, said Telford.
“Everyone was looking forward to playing Arsenal on Sunday and we were then told the club does not exist anymore.
“People were upset and crying. Their livelihoods have been ruined.
“We understand the situation that he [Alan Hardy] doesn’t see it as a feasible business, but to leave it this late, having looked at the numbers probably numerous times, to then come to the conclusion two days before we kick-off is heartbreaking.”
But Hardy maintains it was not a decision taken lightly, saying, “It is a very sad day for me personally and supporters should rest assured I have left no stone unturned in my quest to save the club.
“However, having taken all factors into consideration, the only possible outcome is to discontinue our Ladies club.”
—Alistair Sargent, Correspondent (Sport)