Reading FC scaling back their women’s team has got alarm bells ringing.
Earlier this week, the club announced their women’s team would now be operating in a part-time model following their relegation from the WSL.
Reading have been a staple in WSL and played an important part in the league’s growth over the last decade. The club have had top players turn out for them and I know other teams and players in the league really respect them.
It was disappointing to see them relegated and that on its own will have been a very difficult thing for the players and staff to go through.
But to have that compounded with the news of the women’s team going part-time is really sad.
It is understandable why the club feel operational changes need to be made due to recent financial struggles and the men and women’s teams’ relegation, but the effect of moving part-time will be devastating for Kelly Chambers and her side.
There remains unknowns as to how this will affect players and staff. It’s a decision which has a considerable real-life impact for all of those involved.
Reading Football Club Women can today confirm that we will switch to operating on a part-time basis ahead of the 2023-24 season in the WSL Championship.
Full information ⬇️
— Reading FC Women (@ReadingFCWomen) June 6, 2023
The statement released by the club described how it was becoming more and more difficult to fund the women’s team due to the growth of the game.
And I understand Reading have tried to cut costs elsewhere, but this drastic move feels like the women’s team are taking the biggest hit – and are suffering – because of the club’s struggles.
If you have a women’s team, you should have the same ambitions and values for that team as you do for all of your programmes, such as the men’s team and the academy.
Moving the women’s team to a part-time model doesn’t suggest that the club’s values, certainly towards the women, are aligned with being successful and progressive.
The Championship is an intensely competitive league and with only one promotion spot up for grabs, a part-time Reading side will find it even more difficult to get themselves back playing at the highest level.
It’s a slippery slope for Reading at the minute and I think their situation will have acted as a bit of a warning sign for some other clubs.
The framework clubs choose to operate in can bring success, but it can also be very vulnerable. I think some will be reflecting on how sustainable their models actually are.
With the women’s game in Scotland currently in a different stage of its progress, SWPL clubs can also learn from Reading’s current circumstances.
Some clubs might use it as a reason – and I hope they wouldn’t – to restrict investing more into their women’s team because they are wary of a similar situation happening to them.
But you might find the opposite – clubs might ensure they have a sustainable and robust strategy that ensures they are successful, rather than having to even consider regression.
Mya Christie leaving Aberdeen for Hibernian an interesting move
She has joined newly-appointed Grant Scott’s side on a two-year full-time contract and I’m sure the prospect of being a professional footballer was an enticing factor for the 18-year-old’s move.
Aberdeen will be disappointed to lose her, but her exit has thrown up some questions about the Dons’ strategy on retaining some of their most promising talent.
The players should feel valued and the club should be offering everything they can within their resources so players are inclined to choose and stay with Aberdeen.
Other than a full-time contract, I’m not sure what Hibernian has offered Mya that Aberdeen wouldn’t have the resources to do, but in her interview she said she hopes to develop more as a player – and I do hope that works out for her.
— Hibernian Women (@HibernianWomen) June 6, 2023
And with key players like Mya, Millie Urquhart and captain Loren Campbell leaving, Aberdeen will need to replace them. They need to make sure the club is an exciting proposition for players to come to.
The Dons are the only club within such a big geographical area to play at the highest level and they should be capitalising on that.
There needs to be an incentive for players to want to play for Aberdeen, rather than just wanting to play for Aberdeen. That might be a paid contract, but there are other resources and facilities – such as the universities – the club should tap into to make itself and the city a more attractive option.