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Hi guys :)

It's another of those afternoons on which I've got one too many things to be cross about! Hard work keeping up with it all, I must say. Will I feel better after venting into a newsletter? Probably not, but I'm prepared to give it a whirl!

Do you remember the Bouncy Castle scandal last May, when a fifth-tier women’s game got called off so that some kids could fuck around on a giant inflatable slide to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III?

If you thought that was a bit of fun, you’ll love the contents of today's newsletter. Well, you’ll love it, and you’ll hate it. Sorry.

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Last In, First Out

On Sunday, Thornaby Women shared that the committee of the Teeside non-league club to which they are attached had voted for the female section, comprising six teams and over 100 players, to be disbanded:
A series of tweets by Thornaby Women which read: AND THAT'S WRAP... 🥲  Yesterday we found out that a majority on the Thornaby FC committee, led by Trevor Wing, voted to remove the entire female section from the club.  Under 7 Under 8 Under 10 Under 11 Under 15 Women'sThis leaves over 100 girls without a club. We would like to thank all of our Coaches, Volunteers, Players, Supporters and Sponsors for their dedication over the last 3 years, you are all AMAZING 😍  We are are all devastated to hear of the Thornaby FC.
Oof. Never has a gentleman been thrown under the bus with such efficiency. Very few of the 1.3m people who have viewed this tweet had heard of Trevor Wing before that four-word clause neatly dispatched his reputation. That didn't stop them piling on.
According to his LinkedIn page, our Trev has been volunteering at Thornaby for 14 years, so if you can put the sexism to one side for a second, you can imagine that he is a generous-hearted man, happy to support the people in his area who want to enjoy football while asking for nothing in return.

Is it right that we, the people of the internet, initiate a witch hunt for a man who erred in an altruistic act?

I'd like to think that, in the face of wrongdoing, we can each do a little better than dashing off a twenty-second tweet dubbing every person involved in the incident as ‘disgusting'. But a significant number of people have opted to do this. Recent history tells us it's not always helpful to react strongly to a situation you don't know much about.

The internet furore was already in full swing by the time the whole story surrounding the villainous bouncy castle of Colney Heath emerged; that a misinterpreted email had one side believing the women’s team had been informed of a pitch change, while the ignorant other party showed up to find a surprise gathering of patriots taking precedence over their game. There was a national outcry over an email that needed redrafting or reading through more than once, depending on who you want to blame.
I’d love to say that the Thornaby case can be so easily explained away. This particular scandal did at least have a more compelling foundation than Bouncy-gate. No, the Thornaby committee weren’t arguing whether settling for the 8ft Princess-themed Bouncy Palace when you could pay an extra tenner for the 15ft Unicorn-themed Castle-and-Slide Combo would be unpatriotic (though Trevor Wing's most recent liked tweet, of Piers Morgan’s 2021 call for the people to ‘stand up for our queen’ in the face of accusations that the royal family are racist, leads me to believe he'd likely by gunning for BOTH).

Last summer, Thornaby suffered an arson attack which wiped out their club shop, office block and community room. For clubs that have very limited access to funds and are the product of hours and hours of unpaid work by dedicated volunteers, losing facilities in this way is devastating, a huge blow the club is clearly struggling to recover from.

However. A hardship is not an invite to abandon progress and return to the sweet, familiar embrace of discriminatory behaviour of centuries’ past. Their decision to cut the entire female section is a sad reminder of the ‘men were here first’ attitude that still quietly permeates all of football, meaning that women and girls are vulnerable to being robbed of the opportunity to experience joy and keep fit and form communities that was generously afforded them after a few happened to do quite well at Wembley couple of years back.
The Lioness boom was rapid and reactionary. The Thornaby incident is just one example of many well-intentioned clubs who quickly opened their doors to crowds of eager players without the know-how or resources to establish a solid foundation for growth. When the arson attack made running the club a challenge, more than half of the committee felt that ‘last-in-first-out’ was the fairest approach, as though women have taken up football on a whim after realising, at last, that it’s quite a laugh, rather than recognising that decades of deliberate exclusion might actually mean that they need and deserve a bit of a leg-up.

I don't know. Does writing all this make me feel any better than sending a tweet calling the people responsible 'misogynistic, illiterate idiots'? Is this any more impactful, less harmful perhaps?

I think that Beth Mead is close to the correct answer. She, too, publicly shared her 'disgust', but combined her extreme language with a meaningful gesture, offering to send the affected players a signed England shirt to help inspire them. A bit of scrolling finds Durham inviting them to watch a game for free, a Facebook user offering his services as a coach, a photographer suggesting that he could take some snaps to help attract sponsorship.

Too many people have forgotten that there are ways to contribute to the world being a nice place which don't involve fuming at your keyboard.

Thornaby football club, with or without their women’s side, only survives on the time given up by people like Trevor. Six of the club's board members resigned under the pressure of the unrelenting judgement of the public. Who is stepping up to replace them?

More at The Square Ball

Sarah Danby on the ball for Leeds United Women in front of the big stand at Garforth

The Keys To The Pitch

by Flora Snelson

Who is at home? In women's football, writes Flora Snelson, home advantage often comes second to just having anywhere to play at all.
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