The latest scandal to hit West Ham pinpoints exactly where the football is at: money-obsessed, male-dominated and about three decades behind the rest of the world.
And no, this time we’re not talking about Sam Allardyce. Once weekend after the team’s previous manager, mutually agreed to leave his role as England manager, the club is dealing with another problem: its womens' team.
After failing to provide West Ham United Ladies Team with their annual funding, as well as preventing them from finding their own sponsors, the club have left their female division facing tough times.
They have been told that they are no longer allowed to warm-up in the West Ham gym for reasons their chairman, Stephen Hunt, has put down to complete neglect. Now the team have taken their shuttle runs onto the pavement and their lunges via a zebra crossing. That’s right due to a lack of funding the ladies' team are being forced to train on the side of the road.
Adding insult to injury, there was little or no money left to buy the teams’ kit. Despite the club promising to cover the cost, the players have been left short of funds due the cheque never arriving in the post. Given that the only other option left to the team was to scribble their names over the least season’s hand-me-downs, the ladies team were left little choice other than to buy their own, leaving the team short on funds for the rest of the year.
But, of course, it’s only kit. Whilst looking professional is always a bonus, perhaps for the West Ham board members a new uniform wasn’t a necessity. But then there’s the small issue of not being able to afford the bus to take them to away matches, or the physiotherapy to care for their injuries.
As Hunt professed, West Ham United needs to start acting like a 21st century club. “Initially what I thought was a lack of interest I now believe is a positive intent by West Ham to block the growth of West Ham Ladies,” he explained.
The circumstances forced the club to try take things into their own hands. Setting up a Crowdfunder page, the female footballers were left to ask members of the public to help amass £1.5 million in order to revamp a stadium of their own. But with not one donation, the page lays bare. The disappointing fundraising outcome forced the project to close on the 26th August 2016. Let’s hope the same fate does not become of the team.
The lack of funding given to the West Ham United Ladies FC undermines the importance of women in football. West Ham has acted quickly to attempt to rescue to the club, bringing it back in house. As a spokesman confirmed: “The day to day management of West Ham United Ladies FC was transferred to a third party some time ago, and unfortunately it is an arrangement that has simply not worked. The Club have been working for some time on plans to take West Ham United Ladies FC ‘in-house’ and, in light of Mr Hunt’s most recent deeply concerning comments, we will now be seeking to do so at the earliest opportunity."
The club insists that this means that “women’s football at West Ham United will become bigger, better and stronger" and the game would be grown both "on and off the pitch". Let's hope that's right. But the fact that the team was farmed out to separate management in the first place is symptomatic of a wider cultural problem in football – a sexist attitude towards women who play the beautiful game.
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