Sunday, June 24, 2007

Men Only

"I felt like a man trapped inside a woman's body. And then I was born." (Chris Bliss)

The BBC are reporting that Charlton are scrapping their women's team. Formed in 2000 when Croydon moved under the CAFC umbrella, they have evolved into one of the most successful teams in the country.

I don't care much for women's football (or women's sport in general to be honest). There are plenty of things I enjoy watching women do, but playing football isn't one of them. However to declare little interest in watching them is not to say that I don't strongly support their participation. Ditto, Charlton Deaf FC and numerous other CAFC initiatives.

Living here in the US, football (soccer) is generally considered a 'women's sport', and the so-called 'soccer Mom' is an electoral phenomenon not dissimilar to 'Essex man' in the UK. Cultural barriers in the UK however ensure that women's football will always be seen as little more than a pastime, but the community benefits are very positive. Presumably, anyone with a teenage daughter would rather her be enrolled in a professionally organised football program, than loitering at the bus stop.

When Charlton's women's team was set up in 2000, it was not surely with the expectation of it delivering a financial return in the long-run. There must however have been several indirect benefits, and it was just another example to the good people of South East London that here was a friendly inclusive football club that you would be welcomed at, man or woman, black or white. The team also provided that rare phenomenon....a team called 'Charlton' winning a match televised by Sky.

So to scrap the team now, having built it into a successful operation, seems almost unfathomably clumsy and myopic. It also suggests to me that the club's finances are in worse shape than the Board might have us realise, even with the sale of Darren Bent imminent. We all know cuts have to be made, but where do you draw the line? How much have Kevin Lisbie's wages drained from the club in the past ten seasons? And what about our famed Academy which, in the past five years or so, has done everything except the one thing it was set up to do?

Those that disagree with my point of view here will argue that the club is about the men's first team and nothing else. But Charlton is different, and has only managed to build a brand which has sold 17,000+ season tickets in the Championship by selling itself as the 'community club'. It has led to plenty of mickey-taking (I enjoy satirising our self-righteousness on a regular basis) but what would have been the alternative? To compete with Millwall for nastiness and play to 7,000 fans?

And those who won't spare a thought, let alone shed a tear, for the women's team in the name of focusing on the first team, are also being hypocritical. That free Premiership season ticket offer that was so hungrily snapped up, will be a drain on resources that could be used for new players. The club's cheap matchday ticket pricing generally is not typical of a true profit-maximising entity, nor are the wages and bonuses paid to the players and executives that were responsible for the shambles previously known as 'Season 06/07'. If football was only about seeking to win trophies, and not being part of something broader that we can all be proud of, wouldn't we all be Chelsea fans by now?


At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear NYA and other experts,
re finances being tighter tha n expected- didn't Peter Varney promise to settle Dowies expenses and Jordans claim if he lost after he was sacked? that would account for another £1.5million?seem to remmber it was in a matchday programme.
David Whyte-Whyte-Whyte

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

Would be bloody stupid and unnecessary if true.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Ken Jennings said...

...and didn't he also say recently that due to parachute payments, the club would be in a position to retain their 'better paid' players ?

Doesn't smack of abject poverty to me.

The club have just amputated a huge arm for marketing - especially in North America but is it any real surprise, when the extent of their commercial vision is bounded by the River Thames and the white cliffs of Dover ?

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous DC Addick said...

I may be one of the few males in the world that enjoys women's sports and have been a season ticket holder for both the Washington Mystics and the Washington Freedom over the last years. One of the most attractive things about CAFC for me was the commitment to goals greater than Premiership football and increasing revenue in Asia. The women's team, and a successful one at that, was integral to conning my wife and sisters to spend time at The Valley on our trips to London. This, for me, is the worst news of the summer thus far regarding the club.

At 12:20 AM, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

False economy, negative PR and just generally a poor decision. Less than 2% of what is being brought in for Darren Bent, or likely Kevin Lisbie's salary, would cover the cost of running the women's program. It can't be a money thing, they just don't want the bother! Yet another example of no concept of broader long-term marketing and changing demographics.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I try to redress the balance here and speak in support of the club? The inference from quite a few fans here and on other forums is either that the club have decided to close down the womens team because they can't really be bothered to keep it going, and there is some misogynistic conspiracy going on. Not true. If the women's club was financially self-sufficient this wouldn't have happened, but it is not.
The fact that they have had to sack several club staff shows that they are having to reign in spending to focus on the reason we are all here - the first team. The club are focussing everything on getting us back into the prem, and that is to be applauded.
Preston NE did the same thing last year when their parachute payments stopped. It might mean that we can afford 5k more wages per week for a player that will make the difference.
It's sad for some, but ultimately a matter of priorities.

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

If the team had not had any success, I'd probably agree with you but the Board seem to be cutting them down in their prime unnecessarily. What was their intention when the team was set up? Surely financial self-sufficiency was not a realistic prospect?

There are lots of things the club spends money on which appear in the budget as solely an expense (ie. virtually their entire community project), but the long-term benefits are incalculable (but probably higher than we think).

The general redundancies at the club are unfortunate but unemployment is low, and presumably they will be paid off suitably.

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't normally comment on blogs, but I feel incensed by this decision and completely agree with your comments. This is a very mean and short-sighted decision. The women's team have been a source of pride, kept CAFC's profile high and attracted new fans to the club. They've also been entertaining to watch. Potentially very damaging to our long-term interests. Let's hope it's not too late to reverse this poor, poor decision.

John (East Stand)

At 12:01 PM, Blogger beauzo said...

NYA you've got it just about right. Myopia can be the only reason for such a decision. Croydon Ladies were crudely hijacked 7 years ago against the wishes of many who had founded their club. CL were already one of the top few women's sides and had recently won the FA Cup. To eliminate them at a stroke is unforgivable and displays an abject absence of respect for all concerned and the women's game as a whole. For the women's structure to take its "share" of the downscaling might just about have been fair, this decision is shameful. A branch of the so called "club" hacked off as a result of the willful underachievement of certain individuals in the men's team. This should haunt the board for years to come.


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