Following the news of a multi-year deal signed by Barclays as title sponsors of the Womens Super League, and high street retailer Boots’ sponsorship of the national teams of the home nations and Republic of Ireland, the financial backing behind women’s football in the UK has rarely been as strong as it is now.
While the recent investment is a serious boost to the women’s game, often overlooked is the growing trend of assistance from fans. Increasingly support has come not only from those who pay to go through the turnstiles at women’s games, but from supporter groups of the corresponding teams in the men’s game.
More and more fan groups are linking up with their female equivalent and donating time, skills and money, as they see the growing value of joining up with the women’s team representing their club.
One such example comes from Exeter City, whose trust own the League Two side. Nick Hawker, from the Exeter City Supporters’ Trust said: “The Trust had already been supporting the ladies team for a number of years to the tune of a few hundred pounds a season.
“I met with the ladies team manager before this season and we talked about their business plan, and how the development of young players was core to it. This fits very much into the wider model at Exeter City and the trust community ethos, and so I invited them to present their plan at the trust Board. As a result, we increased our sponsorship to £1,000.
“I also requested that the club board contribute to the team, to the tune of £5,000 a year for the duration of the business plan period. This was agreed!
“What I think we’ve changed is the perspective that the entire club has on the ladies, and we’ve used the trust’s influence to help change it. There is a financial challenge to spending our members’ money on this kind of thing, but since they seem not to mind - they wear the red & white stripes, after all - the club would look pretty stupid if they didn’t buy into it!”
The Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association (HTSA) are another great example of a fans group taking their support of the women’s game seriously.
Jim Chisem from HTSA said: “We have had a close relationship with Huddersfield Town Ladies for around three years now. One of our five main objectives as an organisation is to promote the women’s team specifically, and women’s football more generally.
“The main way we do this is by giving Huddersfield Town Ladies FC (HTLFC) equal billing in our literature and on social media. So, for instance, we always make it clear that we represent Huddersfield Town and Huddersfield Town Ladies supporters.
“We’ve run several HTLFC events, including putting on a free bus from the centre of Huddersfield to ferry people to and from the HTLFC ground, which isn’t easily accessible by public transport. Behind the scenes, we have been working with the Huddersfield Town Foundation to develop a closer relationship between the two clubs and we believe this will pay literal and metaphorical dividends next season.
“Speaking of dividends, we also sponsor two Huddersfield Town Ladies players to the tune of £250 each. This covers their subs for the season.”
Assistance from supporter groups can be vital, and often fans step up to the plate when there is little or no recognition from the senior men’s side.
Richard Mathers, from Hull City Supporters’ Trust, said: “Hull City Ladies do not receive any form of support from the parent club and rely totally on support from the local University and sponsors to operate.
“With the increasing levels of interest in the women’s game, we saw this as a natural opportunity to link up with the ‘Tigresses’ and a way to mutually promote and raise awareness of each other’s organisations through our respective websites and social media channels. For the last two years we have sponsored their first team goalkeeper, Amy Halloran, as well as their Player of the Season award.
“Our members also receive a 25% discount on admission prices to the Ladies home games, and we know this has resulted in some watching matches on a regular basis having previously never attended a women’s game.”
Plenty more fan groups got in contact with us to share the ways in which they help their women’s team – from individual player sponsorships and financial support for equipment, to volunteering and sharing messages in the media.
The growth of partnerships between supporters’ groups and the women’s game is heartening, and we encourage fan groups to reach out and assist in the ongoing growth of the women’s game.
With thanks to PA Images for the image used in this blog.