Birmingham City Women’s Team
Blues Women’s Team have an excellent history over the last decade or so – they were founder members of the Women’s Super League (WSL) in 2011, Runners-up in the inaugural competition and qualified for Europe, Winners of the Women’s FA Cup in 2012, narrowly missed out on being league champions in 2014 and were Cup finalists again in 2017. As recently as 2018-2019 the team were still competitive – finishing fourth in the league and boasting several international players including England Centre-Forward Ellen White. In short, they were a source of great pride to Blues fans.
However, since the start of 2019 the club has been in decline, culminating in a letter that, according to the Daily Telegraph and the BBC, the team wrote to the board last week complaining about a number of issues around their working conditions. These included ‘concerns around travel provisions, access to changing facilities and gyms and the playing budget impacting on the size of the squad’ – something that contributed to the postponement of the game against Tottenham recently which led to the game being forfeited. The letter also raised allegations that some of the coaching staff weren’t full time employees – something that the FA is now investigating as, if true, it would contravene WSL licence rules – and that some employees earning less than the minimum wage. The players insisted that they had numerous requests to meet with the board rejected before sending the letter – something that will be familiar to fans who have tried to engage with the board on numerous occasions without success.
The Telegraph article also notes that there are only three players under contract for next season – something that it suggests calls into question the commitment of the club to fund a full-time team next season.
Prior to the TTA takeover, successful businessman Tim Andrews was the CEO of Birmingham’s women’s team but left shortly after the takeover as the new owners started installing their own appointments. The difficulties really seemed to start for the women’s team around the beginning of 2019. At the end of 2018 Edward Zheng Gannan was appointed as the sole Director of the Women’s team replacing Joanne Allsop, although it is believed Ren Xuandong is the driving force behind how the team is run. In January 2019 the popular and successful coach Marc Skinner left to coach Orlando Pride in the US and was replaced by Marta Tejedor. Tejedor was allegedly appointed by Ren against the advice of his staff.
Summer 2019 saw 11 players leave the club and behind the scenes, like the men’s team, backroom staff were also leaving. The club narrowly avoid relegation in 2019/20 on a points per game basis in the Covid curtailed season after just 2 wins in 13 games. Tejedor left in March 2020 after 14 months in charge. Summer 2020 saw yet more turmoil on the playing front with a further 11 players leaving. Carla Ward joined as team manager in August with a squad of only eight senior players registered and seems to have performed something of a minor miracle to build the squad up, instil a strong spirit within that squad and give the team a chance of staying up in the WSL with four games to go (they are three points ahead of the bottom team, who happen to be Villa, having played one game more).
Looking at the accounts for the women’s team the last ones available are for 2018/19 (Like the men’s team the 2020 accounts are still not available), they show that the costs of running the team in 2018 and 2019 were around £1m per annum with the team posting a profit (after transfer trading) of £60,000 in 2018 and a loss of £90,000 in 2019. The main income came from sponsorship and FA funding with gate receipts and commercial income accounting for about 12% of total revenue. The team appeared not to have any debt at the end of 2019 (although it did have a small amount of negative equity). Clearly Covid will have had an impact but the numbers involved in maintaining the team at a reasonable level seem small in comparison to the men’s team.
If proven correct, some of the issues raised in the letter border on negligence. Sadly, the level of stewardship of the women’s team shown by the board is no better than shown to the men’s team and suggests that the problems with the board don’t just begin and end with Ren.
The Blues’ Women’s team deserve much better – it is time for Zhao Wenqing, the BSH chair, to step up now and install a competent CEO for both the men’s and women’s teams and to show the women’s team some proper support. More widely there is also a message here for the F.A. to govern the women’s game better – they could start by ensuring that monies from the newly announced WSL TV deal are spread fairly evenly across all participating clubs to try and promote greater competition rather than turning the women’s game into a carbon copy of the Premier League with the rewards excessively concentrated on the top few clubs.
Ren you are on notice whilst you remain CEO that you will be held responsible by fans of the women’s team for sorting this situation, investing appropriately and securing the full-time future of a properly supported women’s team before the summer. Equally the fans are looking for Zhao Wenqing to install improved long-term leadership at the Club for both the men’s and women’s teams as soon as possible.
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Is there anything that Dong can’t turn to shit?
Though I say it light heartedly it does sometimes make you wonder if Dong was planted on us by the Villa. All he has done is disrespect and damage the values at Birmingham City, we as fans support everyone of our teams regardless of age or gender or which league or division they are playing in, we expect the board and owners to give each of them every chance of being able to compete and achieve equally with other teams within that division and/or league.
Most of us tend to focus on the men’s first team but this season in particular Dong and his cohorts have highlighted the depth of the disrespect they have for our wonderful club at every level. Men, women and young adults we respect every one of you and believe that you should be supported as the professionals that you are at whatever level you are playing.
If Dong has any respect for the club, the owners and indeed for himself then he needs to resign with immediate effect, but he’s just a coward sitting pretty behind an empty desk.
As regards every player they all wear the Birmingham badge and all deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and support. The club has totally decimated the women’s team over the past couple of years they used to be a powerhouse in the WSL, the CEO has threatened to remove the academy and by his appointments for the men’s team he has proved that he isn’t capable of organising a p*ss up in a brewery let alone run a football club, he is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. No wonder the rest of the footballing world is laughing at us.
The quicker Dong goes the quicker Birmingham City can get back towards being the proud club it once was. KRO.
Great article and response. Will the board bother to read this and if they do will they just put it on the back burner? Regarding the ladies it is very serious allegations against the board which could have massive implications throughout the whole club
Unfortunately Phil even if they read it I don’t think for one second the board will action anything. Despite this subject being mentioned in the tabloids and even on Sky Sports it doesn’t have a single mention on the official Blues website; they will only read, discuss, report and action anything that sees them in a good and positive light. They must be clapping their hands with glee that fans aren’t allowed into grounds at the moment.
I remember playing against the blues girl football team when I about 14 thats fifty years ago do these people realise how much tradition these ladies have.They use to train at the Ritz park bordesley green a good few of them were very good and enjoyed playing the male youths from the park.I always check the ladies scores and how well they do.They have always struggled with support from blues but the truth is supporting local teams especially with your name ,and now badge is ony positive to the board etc.