By Gary Cooper
I am one of those bloody annoying people that when told “You can’t do that” I become even more determined to do it and nine times out of ten I do! As a father of four daughters I have a wealth of experience when it comes to girls being told they ‘can’t do that’ and invariably they become utterly single minded and do it any way – what a deadly combination if both scenario’s happen at the same time?
Well they did this summer, at a close season meeting I was told that the stakeholders in Leeds United Ladies FC could not run the club with any degree of success, that we couldn’t independently manage and fund the club, that LUFC would not allow a ladies team use of the name or the badge and effectively that women’s football at Leeds was to end. The girls who played for Leeds United Ladies were told the club was being disbanded and they should look elsewhere to play their football, neither I nor the majority of the girls were willing to let that happen and with the excellent support of parents, sponsors, fans and the wider Leeds family we proved the doubters wrong.
In July 2014 Leeds Ladies FC was born from the ashes of destruction as Leeds United Ladies lay discarded and abandoned by LUFC the club loved by players and fans alike having fallen victim to the restructure/rethink/re-evaluation of operating costs and priorities. LUFC and its decision makers may well feel justified in that decision and many LUFC fans will not really care as predominantly their interest is of course in the men’s team and what they perceive to be Leeds United. I don’t have a problem with that, I love Leeds United and have for as long as my living memory allows but I don’t have to like the actions of the custodians present or past and I don’t have to agree with all the decisions they make and in taking the decision to disband the ladies team I believe Leeds United let down it’s family, it’s community and 50% of the population it serves.
Why shouldn’t the girls of Leeds aspire to play for their home town club? Why shouldn’t women’s football enjoy the passion and pride that goes hand in hand with football in Leeds and has done for almost a century both on the pitch and on the terraces? Leeds United Ladies did not have to cost LUFC a penny so any suggestion that financial matters dictated the clubs decision to discard it’s women’s team simply don’t make sense. The decision was taken anyway.
The fans and players had been told they couldn’t support or be Leeds United Ladies but such is the strength, the pride and the passion of all concerned the ashes of destruction gave birth to the legendary Phoenix that was to become Leeds Ladies FC. Within three weeks the team, manager, committee, supporters group and funding to begin a season as Leeds ladies FC was in place, a quite remarkable achievement in itself but what followed from the wider Leeds community was nothing short of incredible. Following a plea for player sponsors and a hope that the plight of the ladies team might supported no less than 51 individuals, forums, fanzines, bloggers, fan groups, local businesses, community groups, bands such as Cadillac Jukebox and The Kaiser Chiefs and LUFC players Noel Hunt and Aidy White stood up to be counted and sponsored Leeds Ladies FC players. Fans from Norway, Australia and even South Africa offered support and sponsorship, other women’s football clubs and bodies came forward (Scarborough Ladies FC in particular who have been amazingly supportive) and offered help, advice, guidance and encouragement sharing our belief that the Leeds should have a women’s football team and that the game is better for it. The FA, the WRCFA, the FAWPL all helped massively to ensure we could make this happen and with all of that support the Phoenix unfurled its wings, raised its head, opened its eyes and looked straight into the faces of those who said ‘No’ and “You can’t do it” and with her legendary grace she flapped her wings and rose from the ashes, proud and free to live again.
Her journey has only just begun but it is a journey many were convinced wouldn’t happen – they were wrong.
If you would like to see what the fuss is about and why anyone cares about women’s football and Leeds ladies FC come along to a game, our fixture list can be found on our website http://www.leedsladiesfc.org.uk/index.php or check out our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LeedsUnitedLadies?fref=ts for news and updates but most of all come along to a game, you might be surprised by what you see.