Thornaby FC cut all girls’ and women’s teams from the club in disgraceful decision

A general view of balls stacked up on Thornaby FC's pitch
Image credit: @ThornabyFCWomen on Twitter

Just three years after establishing its first women’s and girls’ teams in 2021, Thornaby FC Women have announced that the entire female section of the club has been removed.

A majority vote by the Teesside-based club’s committee, led by Trevor Wing, means that the girls’ Under 7s, 8s, 10s, 11s and 15s, as well as the women’s senior team, have been abandoned by their club and left heartbroken.

With the women having made it to the final of the County Cup and achieving the highest league finish in their history, it is a devastating finale in an utterly misogynistic chain of events, which has not gone unnoticed in the football world.

The woeful decision comes as a result of financial issues at the club, with the board clearly hoping to secure a quick fix. One that conveniently only prioritises their male players.

In the hours after the announcement, there was an outcry on social media from parents, players and the community on behalf of more than 100 girls and women who have been left without a club. Grassroots clubs like Thornaby have the responsibility of providing a safe and nurturing environment for young footballers to grow, not a hostile and hierarchical one which shuts them out. Is it possible that any of the boys’ or men’s teams have been voted on and subsequently sacrificed? The answer is all too obvious.

Thornaby FC’s board has responded to the backlash on Facebook, saying: “The committee held an emergency meeting with all concerned and discussed the whole future of the club including the events over the last 12 months and after discussions it was felt the only way to continue was without the women and running with only the men’s team as before they came to the club, also with staffing levels very low the day to day running of the club is in doubt.”

This statement provokes one question: why not equally cut teams from both sides, men’s and women’s? Why solely target your women’s teams and pass it off as financial difficulties? Ultimately, the struck-off women’s team pays subs, has sponsorship and consists of volunteers.

Football comes together to support Thornaby FC players

In light of the antiquated decision, members of the community on Teesside have banded together quickly. Clubs such as Stockton FC, Middleton Rangers and South Park Rangers have offered space for those who have been sorely let down by their club’s terribly-masked sexist values. David Wheater, former Middlesbrough player and local legend, has even offered his support as well as places at W2 Football Academy.

Women’s football still has a great deal of progress to make in the North East, where girls’ teams can be few and far between. Of these 100 Thornaby FC players who have been left out in the cold, some will now struggle to pursue their passion for the sport and may not continue to play. For many young girls, joining a club is the only way to properly develop and progress. 

The morning after the announcement, a flood of messages came pouring in from the likes of Lionesses stars Bethany England and Beth Mead. The latter posted on social media that she is ‘disgusted’ with the decision and offered her support for those affected.

“The women’s game is on the up but we still have committees making these horrible decisions. It’s not good enough, these young girls deserve better. I’d love to send the team a signed England shirt to keep them inspired. If I can help with anything do reach out, us women need to stick together.”

Following the intense backlash online, six members of the Thornaby FC committee who voted to scrap the women’s teams have stepped down from their positions. Only Phil Genery and chairman Gary Morris — who spoke about his opposition to the majority vote — remain.

Protect and promote women’s teams

What more must we do to make women’s voices heard in the game? To make it known to clubs that we are worth investing in? Women’s football is undoubtedly the fastest growing sport in the world right now and certainly in the country. It is disgraceful that the quickly emerging opportunities are being snatched from girls and women coming up through the ranks.

The North East has famously produced trailblazers in Lucy Bronze, Jill Scott, Beth Mead and Steph Houghton — so how is it that certain clubs in the region are still not recognising the worth and power of women’s sport? 

Embed from Getty Images

As much as women’s football has grown and flourished in recent years, there is clearly still a long way to go. Inclusion is at the heart of the game — there is no place for archaic attitudes. Even if Thornaby FC decide to retract their decision once a new board is formed with women’s representatives, let it be known that they do not at all value or respect their female players. They have lost any morsel of respect from the local community, and football fans up and down the country, in making their prejudices so evident. 

The year is 2024. Let women and girls play football. Give us that right — we’ve earned it. 

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