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There is a bit of a melee in English football over the decision of a non-league club, Thornaby FC, to axe their women’s teams. The decision shuts over 100 players out of the game, from under-7 level to adult. A representative of ‘The Lionesses’ a group of English players who briefly filled TV schedules with some sporting drama, called the decision “disgusting”.

I’ve seen kids clubs close and it’s devastating for the players; friends’ groups break up and some never play the game again, yet it happens around this time every year, when people decide that commitments can no longer be met.

Unlike some of our assistant referees, Thornaby do not survive on the largesse of the taxpayer. They pay their bills or the go the way of the dodo and the Rangers. It is doubtless that a painful decision had to be made.

Womens’ football can contribute greatly to the health of the nation – if it continues to grow as a participatory sport. It should be encouraged in schools (a legitimate taxpayer opportunity here) and nurtured through to senior level. But for years to come, it will come up against some commercial realities. The womens’ game is financially underwater everywhere and at tiny clubs like Thornaby that’s going to hurt.

The game has to grow within its means. Remain amateur wherever necessary, supported by direct sponsorship and not be subject to the whims of an organisation that survives on money generated from the men’s game.

I feel for the kids who lost their game this month, losing your chance to play football is devastating. If ‘The Lionesses’ want to help, I’m sure they can (but won’t). The women’s game, especially in England and Spain, has grown audiences and budgets in impressive measure, but not equally. If budgets are not trimmed, Thornaby will merely be the hole in the dyke.

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