Notts County owner: ‘Closing former ladies side was hardest decision of my career’

Video: Notts County owner Alan Hardy explains the timing of the new side’s creation.

By Nancy Frostick

Notts County owner Alan Hardy said dissolving the women’s team at Meadow Lane last year was the hardest decision of his business career, as he explained why the club was now launching a new senior women’s side.

Notts County Women FC will start as a new entity after the old side, Notts County Ladies, was controversially folded 13 months ago.

The former top-flight team had reached the FA Cup final at Wembley in 2015, but were disbanded on the eve of the new season in April 2017, leading to fierce criticism from some fans and players.

The club revealed the creation of a new team on Sunday (May 20) on Twitter.

Hardy told Notts TV this week: “In 30 years of business, that was my hardest decision without a shadow of a doubt.

“But it [continuing] was financial suicide for two reasons – one we had half a million pounds of legacy debt and it had ongoing losses of half a million pounds, so it was going to cost me a million pounds to run just that one football team during this last season and it just wasn’t viable.

“The numbers did not work. Now we are launching it with some structure, we are going to engage with businesses and bring people along with us on a journey.”

Hardy, who bought Notts County in January 2017, believes the lack of an existing fan-base and integration with Notts County is one of the reasons it failed in its previous incarnation.

The Ladypies began life as Lincoln Ladies, before a controversial move across the East Midlands and rebranding under affiliation with County.

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The closure of the previous women’s side came just two days before the Ladypies were due to play at Arsenal.

He said: “It’s like building a house. You don’t start with a roof, you start with the foundations.”

He added: “This is not just a lot of ladies that have been jettisoned in from Lincoln like they were previously, this has to be sustainable.

“This is not about me personally having to right some wrongs, this is about an entire club. Notts County Football Club is not just a men’s team, it is a club that has a boys’ junior programme, a girls’ junior programme and now a senior women’s programme.”

Since the start of the 2017/18 season, County have operated a girls’ elite performance centre, which Hardy believes is vital to providing a pathway to a senior team.

“We are ahead of our plan [to create a new women’s side], we are ahead of our intended target, which would probably have been another two years’ time.

“I said to Sue Campbell, who is the chief exec of the Women’s FA, a year ago that at some point we would launch a new senior ladies team again at Notts County.

“It is really important that girls see there is a pathway. There are girls who will be on the England pathway, it’s important that they see where they are going.”

Notts County Football in the Community lead coach Adam Dunleavy has announced on Twitter that he will be first team manager and open trials for the senior team will be held at Meadow Lane on Sunday.

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