Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Sky Blues lead a revolution...

...raising the bar in women's football.

Last week I attended the Manchester City Ladies FC relaunch event at the Etihad stadium, home of The Sky Blues. As previously mentioned in my blog column, I was there only a couple of months prior attending a Kick It Out 'Raise Your Game' event for women in football. That event focused on mentors giving amateur journalists, coaches, managers, women in every area of the game basically, advice and knowledge of how they made it in the world of football. From that experience alone, I felt Manchester City FC were keen to promote more about women's football and the whole day in general felt professional and organised.

The purpose of the relaunch was not only to unveil their new signings, but to express their desire and commitment as a club to change women's football. Under the new name 'Manchester Women's Football Club', head of women's development Gavin Makel, expressed the club's intent: "Manchester has never really had that clear pathway for women and girls football. Now we’ve got an elite women’s football club in the area, were going to hopefully help young girls who can benefit and have role models to aspire to and become players themselves in the future."

The team was founded in 1988 by City in the Community and officially formed a partnership with the men's side in 2012. Since their recent admission into the FA Women's Super League, the club has started to make real progress in expanding, with additional funding and resources being poured into the women's team. When asked about the progression of the club, Makel further added: "It’s been quite a long and lengthy process so far and we're finally here today which is fantastic. It all started round about a year ago with the application into the FA WSL being accepted. And then since the summer it has been a case of identifying players and giving ourselves a really strong brand as you’ve seen today and really treating the women’s game with the respect it deserves.........We've got a plan, its not short term, it is long term. We’ve got aspirations where we want to be as a football club that will be similar to what you see around here in the men’s game and in the academy."

Nick Cushing(MCWFC Manager), Leigh Wood(Women's Coach), Manuel Pellegrini(MCFC Manager), Patrick Viera(Elite Squad Manager), Jason Kreis(NY City FC Manager), Claudio Reyna(NY City FC Director)

Head coach of the men's team, Manuel Pellegrini and the Head Coach of the Elite Development Squad, Patrick Viera were also present. Viera reiterated the club's desire to make women's football more popular and increase participation through community programmes, youth development, scouting, coaching and sharing vital resources as a club. This wasn't just a fancy display of interviews and video clips to try and impress the media present, but it was an honest insight into the pathway Manchester City FC are setting as a club and especially, their commitment to women and girls football.

Speaking on behalf of the FA, Rachel Pavlou and Alex Horne spoke about the Football Association's new 'FA Women and Girls' programme which aims to provide free coaching sessions to 14-25 year olds at grassroots level. Joining forces with Sport England, the Premier League and Football League, along with a £2.4m investment, they hope to make women's football the second biggest team sport by 2017.

"We (Man City FC) have a plan, it's not short term, it is long term."

New signings Toni Duggan, Jill Scott, Betsy Hassett, Karen Bardsley and captain Steph Houghton were all present at the event which also marked a reunion for the original team formed in 1988. Newly appointed captain Steph Houghton expressed her delight at joining City: "It's a new challenge for me, as soon as I spoke to Man City, I got the feeling there was something special and big about to happen. I wanted to join the club now from the beginning, not come in two years down the line." The ladies will play their first FA WSL season at the Regional Athletics Arena opposite the Etihad, then they will move to their own 7000 seater stadium in 2015.

Manchester City FC now co-own Melbourne Heat in Australia's A-League and New York City FC, who aim to be playing in the MLS by 2015. The club have been criticized in the past by many for throwing money into the game, buying expensive players rather than developing their team from youth academy up. However, sending high profile players, men and women, into local communities is what will inspire and drive young people to play the game. As a club they are united in bringing football to all corners of the globe, to all ages, genders and nationalities. City are leading the way in a new era of football, starting from grassroots all the way to professional levels and it's about time other professional clubs set a similar example and join the football revolution.

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