After the shocking news that a top level women’s football team has now disappeared, let’s have a look at the chain of events that led to the disaster.
First, it has to be said that the club existed only for three years.
It was formed in 2014, when the Lincoln Ladies franchise was transferred to Notts County Ladies, a move similar to the one that happened when Wimbledon moved to Milton Keynes.
Lincoln Ladies disappeared at the end of 2013 and the Notts County Ladies team that was playing in the lower division of the women’s football pyramid was absorbed. The Lincoln Ladies fans instantly lost their team as the FA allowed the then-owner, Ray Trew, to move the franchise away from their club.
It has to be understood that there are multiple responsibilities in the Notts County Ladies disaster: Ray Trew who drove the club to the ground, the FA for allowing it to happen and Alan Hardy, the new owner who decided to pull the plug.
Ray Trew, the previous owner who bought Lincoln and initiated the move from Lincoln to Notts County, probably dreamt about big successes for his team and bought a lot of players, to end up with no trophies. It is quite extraordinary that he was allowed to accumulate such debts to the HMRC and other creditors and then get away with it by selling the club.
That the FA also allowed him to build the debt to such an extent is also puzzling, because you would think that there would be a financial control department at the FA WSL that would monitor what was happening to clubs every season. Even if clubs were given licences for three and then five years, it is a real concern that no alarm bells rang and it ended up in such a disaster.
There is a certain irony in the FA statement about their refusal to transfer the franchise to another team to save the players and the coaching staff.
“To maintain the integrity of the league and in fairness to all other FA WSL and FA Women’s Premier League clubs, there is a rigorous application process to meet licence criteria.”
According to the club statement there was a need to spend nearly £1,000,000 to keep the club afloat:
“I wish to be totally transparent with supporters about the sums of money involved here. When I took over the club, HMRC and other creditors had in excess of £350,000 of unpaid liabilities.
“Additionally, I was extremely concerned that to operate Notts County Ladies for the current season was going to cost us approximately £500,000 – a figure principally made up of player and coaching salaries. Our total projected incoming revenue from attendances and sponsorship was £28,000.”
The new owner took over the men’s club and settled their debt first before trying to the settle the women’s club debt. It was subjected to a winding-up order that was adjourned and then came the hammer blow, two days before the Spring Series was about to start.