Doncaster Rovers Belles Ladies Football Club has had its appeal against The FA’s decision to place the club in the newly formed second tier DISMISSED.
The Belles will now be required to play in division 2 from 2014 after 22 unbroken years in the top flight of English women’s football.
Formed in 1969, the Belles, have championed women’s football for the last four decades and the decision to remove them from the top tier [WSL 1] after only one league game this season was the result of an administrative application based process. It was met with widespread media and public condemnation surrounding the timing and rationale. Not unnaturally, an appeal was mounted by the Belles. The Independent Appeals Panel appointed by the FA has now concluded that under the terms and conditions of this administrative process the club is not permitted to challenge the FA’s discretion to offer places in the new first division of the Women’s Super League.
Speaking after hearing that the club’s appeal had been unsuccessful, Alan Smart, Vice-Chairman of Doncaster Rovers Belles LFC, who gave evidence personally at the hearing, said:
‘It’s an unfortunate period in this proud club’s history, a very emotional time for all. Football shouldn’t be about administrative decisions; no one has a divine right to play at the highest level for ever but the beautiful game should be about the meritocratic winning or losing of promotion or relegation after a season full of highs and lows.
here now are mere custodians of what is and will continue to be a true ICON of the women’s game.
The whole club are naturally gutted, but we remain committed to our core values. We shall continue to fight to uphold our belief in a sporting competition where results are determined on the field of play and to plan for the future as a club that supports its local community and respects its responsibilities to the game as a whole – after all, those
‘We still believe that the game can support more than eight quality first division teams.’ Smart added that the club was already consulting as to whether further legal action should be pursued and will meet with the FA again next week. ‘I cannot praise our legal team too highly - Liz Ellen of Mishcon De Reya, an eminent sports lawyer, and Jane Mulcahy of Blackstone’s Chambers who represented the club at both hearings, both ably supported by Carl Lygo, CEO of BPP Holdings and Principal of BPP University College of Professional Studies. The whole team weren’t Premier not even Super League class they were ‘OUT OF THIS WORLD – in a class of their own. BRILLIANT.’
‘The national and international support for the club has been very, very humbling; those that know me, know I’m not often stumped for words, but the whole public, media and sports related journalists shouting for justice for Doncaster Rovers Belles has been phenomenal. There have been banners, appeals, protests and MP’s lobbying; Dermot O’Leary, Louis Tomlinson, Danny Baker, Ian Wright, Jeff Stelling and Robbie Savage have all had a view on the situation as it unfolded. The club also received support from the other current WSL clubs with their representative, Mr Vic Akers, the founder of Arsenal Ladies (the current and only WSL Champions and FA WSL cup holders), coming out in the national press to express his personal support and that of the other WSL clubs. Thank you one and all, but a special mention for Glen Wilson of Viva Rovers, the men’s club’s ‘Popular Stand’ fanzine, who brought the injustice of it all to the attention of the world and started the online petition signed by nearly 9,000 supporters, and to the ‘Noisy Belles’ supporters club who would not and will never let the momentum drop.
A heartfelt thank you to the entire supporter’s network, new and not so new; please continue to show your support on behalf of not just the Belles but for all those other clubs - less fashionable, less affluent or simply not good on paper or at interview – who nevertheless have put their heart and soul into promoting the women’s game in England for decades. RESPECT in bucketfuls for those unsung heroes. We shall continue to fight their corner, both on and off the field.’