by Sylvain Jamet
Alex Scott was interviewed in the weekend edition of the Guardian and was clearly unhappy about some aspects of the Arsenal ladies setup.
Scott was bothered by the fact that Arsenal are now trailing other FA WSL sides in term of organisation, logistics and funding after being the top side for more than a decade.
When the FA WSL started in 2011, it was business as usual for the Arsenal Ladies with the club winning the title in consecutive seasons just as they had done in the Women’s Premier League for a decade. At the time all the sides were working on the semi-professional model, training two or three times a week in the evening.
Scott talks about the old times, “Vic gave us a job in the Arsenal laundry, so we could earn some cash and play football at the same time.”
Arsenal were way ahead of the other women’s teams, they even paid players match fees.
“Back then, £100 was a big thing. And with the jobs in the laundry we could get by.”
Matt Beard took over Liverpool and they went full-time in 2013, starting the professional revolution that has now swept English football and lead Liverpool to two consecutive titles. That started the end of the Arsenal dominance and the club has been trying to catch up since.
Alex’s words about the club are quite scathing, the interview was arranged at a Starbucks near the training ground at London Colney, an unusual place.
“We are waiting for the men to finish their training,” explained the defender. “We’ve got the same facilities, but we have to wait until they are finished and it is so frustrating.”
It feels strange to hear that the Ladies are not allowed to train at the same time as the men’s team considering how big the Colney base is and the number of pitches available.
“We were winning everything, we were paying people first of all, and now all the investment has gone into women’s football and Arsenal stood still. Everybody overtook us and now we are playing catch-up.”
Shelley Kerr made the first step towards going professional by having players to train every night and sometimes on Saturday, which was a good start. The lack of results mixed with players being unhappy with her led to a lot of departures at end of her first season with the club.
Some players left at the end of 2013 because they were offered better working conditions. Stephanie Houghton, for example moved, to Manchester City: “It was a chance to be a professional footballer. At Arsenal we were training two or three times a week in the evenings. What we mean by professional is you’re in every day. Monday to Saturday, train all week and have one rest day. My draw was to be able to train in the morning and be finished 3-4 pm, and the night’s time is mine.”
Alex Scott agrees with her England captain, “City have set the standard by being professional. All the players are in everyday, the women’s stadium they’ve got – they’re doing everything like the men are doing and that’s how it should be. Professionalism. They are raising the bar, while we are out here, waiting around now to train in the evening when all the men have gone. It is so frustrating.”
Chelsea Ladies, Notts County Ladies, Manchester City Women, Liverpool Ladies are all now full-time professional teams. Sunderland Ladies train five times a week. Birmingham and Bristol are still working and training on the old semi-professional model and are rooted to the bottom of the table, though Birmingham are now trying to get more of their players to train more often in the evening.
With the current secrecy surrounding budgets of FA WSL teams, it is difficult to know how much other teams are spending but Arsenal Ladies are clearly trailing behind the big guns these days.
Pedro Losa has a solid coaching staff surrounding him in comparison to Shelley Kerr, who was more or less on her own. Things are going the right way, but there is certainly a need to get the girls to train like the other professional teams to be on an equal footing with others side.
Whether it will be at London Colney or at another place, things will need to happen soon or the girls will be swimming against the tide as more teams get structured and professional around the country.