On April 20th, the Notts County Ladies were looking ahead to their first FA WSL spring season fixture against the Arsenal Ladies. On April 21st, the club folded.
To continue the Notts County Ladies, chairman and owner Alan Hardy said in his official statement, would be “nothing short of financial suicide” and that the “only possible outcome is to discontinue our Ladies club.”
Thus, with no warning and no inkling at all that liquidation was impending, an entire club’s worth of players, staff, and coaches were left out of a job with the transfer window shut and the season starting the next day. Some were also left homeless.
Been find out we have no more club…thanks @Official_NCFC left jobless and homeless
— Danielle buet (@Danibuet4) April 21, 2017
England national team goalkeeper Carly Telford reiterated that same statement in an interview later that day.
It can’t entirely be said that this situation arose out of thin air; when Hardy took over the club from previous owner Ray Trew, he was taking over a club that was hemorrhaging money. That Notts County would have some sort of financial trouble is not particularly surprising.
However, the timing and suddenness of Hardy’s decision is highly questionable; could he not have crunched the numbers sooner? Could he not have given these players, four of whom — Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jade Moore and Jo Potter — will be playing in a major European tournament this summer, the chance to join another club in the offseason?
And while Hardy tried to assure fans and players that he had “left no stone unturned in [his] quest to save the club,” some players weren’t buying it.
If AH put as much effort into our team as he does with boys U8's team, maybe we'd be warming up for our season opener 💁🏻 #SundayThought
— Leanne Crichton (@crichton7) April 23, 2017
An under-8 squad is important to keep running, of course. But it is believable that a women’s player would be incredulous that Hardy really, truly tried everything he could to save the team. Women’s football is often considered a luxury, even at the top-flight professional level, and the Notts County Ladies found out what Hardy’s pecking order is when it comes to all of the Notts County teams.
Not to mention that Hardy reportedly did not even tell the players of their fate in person, nor did the players find out more than mere minutes before the rest of the world.
Interestingly, the announcement from Notts County comes just two days after the Liverpool Ladies announced their kit sponsorship deal with Avon Products, as Avon became both the Ladies’ first independent kit sponsor as well as the first female-focused company to sponsor a women’s club. Amidst historic advances like this, and as women’s football attendances for both the domestic and international game continue to rise, the devastating situation at Notts County reminds us just how many obstacles the sport faces for its growth — and it reminds us in the most slap-in-the-face, gut-wrenching, absolute worst way possible.
Julie Roberts, who runs the official Notts County Ladies’ supporters club, started a fundraiser to help the players out. You can donate here.