They’re only three games into life on the women’s Premier League National Division, but recently Manchester City Ladies received a boost that most women’s club will be incredibly envious of.
The ladies and their male counterparts released a statement outlining a new partnership between the two clubs, which will see the women’s team gain access to academy coaches, as well as marketing and commercial opportunities.
Don Dransfield, Head of Strategy at Manchester City Football Club said: “The women’s game is continuing to grow at a pace with 28 million girls and women playing football worldwide, making it the most popular female participating team sport. We are pleased to be able to give our support to MCLFC as they look to build on their hard work and commitment of the past few years.”
The ladies team’s promotion to the second tier of English football last season will no doubt have alerted the men’s division to the potential of the club.
City will be looking to make an impression on the Women’s Premier League, a league that lost most of its big names to the Women’s Super League when the new semi-professional league formed in 2011.
However, there are rumours that the WSL could end up being a two-tier competition in the next few years, and City will be looking to be one of those clubs earing a place, should those plans come to fruition.
Having access to Manchester City’s coaching is sure to improve the quality of the players available, while marketing and commercial opportunities will help promote the ladies’ fixtures and look to acquire new fans to the club.
Clubs such as Arsenal Ladies have been incredibly successful in utilising the opportunities the men’s division have presented over the years, with former Ladies manager Vik Akers being a key link between the two clubs.
However, there have been examples of where partnerships have not worked, most notably at Fulham and Charlton.
Fulham were the first club to become professional in 2000, thanks to investment from Mohammed Al Fayed. They soon shot up the divisions, before winning the FA Women’s Premier League and competing in Europe.
The club became semi-professional in 2003, which subsequently saw a number of players leave, meaning lower gates, less media coverage, and eventually, a dissolved club.
Similar events occurred at Charlton, through no fault of their own.
In 2007, Charlton Ladies lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal in a tight match. On the same day, their make counterparts were relegated from the Premier League, which resulted in a number of cutbacks.
These cutbacks included the women’s team, with the side dissolved just a month after their final appearance.
A sponsorship package rescued the club a few months later, although all but two of the first team squad returned, with the rest seeking clubs elsewhere.
Charlton ended up finishing the following season bottom of the Women’s Premier League and were relegated.
What appears to be reassuring about the Manchester clubs’ partnership is it doesn’t seem to be based on money.
City Ladies will benefit not from finances, but from expertise, facilities and publicity – something the majority of clubs in the women’s game would benefit from.
As mentioned above, there are a number of clubs who have successful links ups, with Arsenal and Everton being the notable examples.
The Gunners have dominated the English game for the last decade and have benefited from publicity through the men’s side, while they have also been able to play fixtures at the Emirates, which has seen crowds over five times their normal average attendance.
Partnerships and link ups are becoming more common, but for Manchester City, a club who have never played in the top tier of English football, this is a huge step towards challenging the clubs in the Premier League, and possibly later in the Super League.
The club has started steadily this season with four points from their opening three games, and with the new link up with the men’s side, City could soon be following in the footsteps of Mancini and his stars.
Kieran Theivam is a former journalist and follower of women's football. His blog can be found here and he can be followed on Twitter here.