Coventry United players and staff let go days before Christmas

The Coventry United squad huddles.
The Coventry United squad huddles during the FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup match against Charlton Athletic on 17 November 2021. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)

Coventry United have announced its board of directors’ decision to bring the club to an end. In doing so, the FA Women’s Championship side released its first team players and staff.

The news comes just months after the club went fully professional ahead of the 2021/22 season. Now, it will enter a creditors’ voluntary liquidation through the assistance of accounting firm BK Plus.

News of the club’s financial crisis broke Thursday morning, just two days prior to Christmas. As the day went on, the club remained silent as players and staff began expressing their disappointment on social media.

A season of promise

Coventry was promoted to the Championship in 2019 after winning the Southern Division of the FA Women’s National League. During the next two seasons, the club narrowly survived relegation—finishing 10th at the end of the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

At the start of 2021, three owners of the Coventry-based business Mirius took a 49% stake in the club. With the new financial boost, the club agreed to turn professional while heading into the 2021/22 season.

The club displayed even more ambition during the offseason through several new signings, including forward Katie Wilkinson and midfielder Charlie Estcourt. Wilkinson was the league’s top goalscorer for two years-running while Estcourt is a frequent Wales national team called-up.

“The board have been exceptional with me and this year in particular they’ve given me everything I’ve asked for,” said manager Jay Bradford during an interview with BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Radio.

Despite the encouraging support, the club could not find its footing during the new campaign. At the time of its liquidation announcement, the club sat second from the bottom of the league table.

The players and community react

Regardless of league results, the collapse of the club shocked both players, staff, and the entire football community.

“We had absolutely no indication that the club were in such financial difficulty,” wrote Wilkinson. “It feels so cruel that at what should be one of the happiest times of the year, our livelihoods, our financial security and our club has been taken away from us just two days before Christmas.”

Defender Nat Johnson added that her four months at the club had been “some of the happiest” in her career. She went on to thank the players and the staff.

Outside of the team, players from other clubs also shared their thoughts on the situation.

Aoife Mannion of Manchester United suggested the FA and the PFA should provide financial aid to the Coventry players. Liverpool’s Becky Jane countered Mannion’s comment stating that the player’s association will most likely not assist in the matter.

The community offers support

Soon after the news broke, an outpouring of sympathy and support filled social media. With Coventry players and employees left without a job two days before Christmas, many fans and colleagues reached out to provide assistance.

Stoke City opened the door for Coventry players and staff to get in touch should they need any place to stay fit.

A Crowdfunder campaign also surfaced online to provide financial support to the Coventry United team. Within its first few hours, the campaign generated almost £1,000 in donations.

“These ladies have battled superbly all season and always have time to sign an autograph and inspire the next generation,” wrote Michael Mogan, the fundraiser’s organizer.

“It’s Christmas, people are busy and times are testing. But it seems apt to try to raise some funds and to give them directly to the team members to show our gratitude and support.”

In a time of great difficulty, it’s the support of the community that proves to be the most important asset to women’s football.

“If we love football, then we’re all on the same side,” shared Lewes FC Women. “The thing now is to understand each element behind this sad event and put in place, together, an environment where women’s football can thrive independently.”