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Manchester United’s treatment of the women’s team is embarrassing – something must change



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The women’s team is being treated more like an annoyance than a valuable cog in Manchester United’s globally recognised machine.

When Sir Jim Ratcliffe bought 27.7% of United for £1.31 billion, he was investing in the whole club. So far, he has been proactive with his involvement, making several changes off the pitch, including hiring Omar Berrada as CEO, Jason Wilcox as technical director, and Dan Ashworth as sporting director following an agreement with Newcastle United.

However, the 71-year-old, at the moment at least, seems to only have a focus on the men’s team. 

Read More: Matthijs de Ligt’s Manchester United destiny – Three reasons why it will work

Granted, there are many issues with Erik ten Hag’s side which demand INEOS’ attention, in recent times, whether or not the Dutchman got to keep his job, the desire to bring in at least one centre-back with Matthijs de Ligt and Jarrad Branthwaite hogging the headlines and necessary upgrades to Carrington which was beginning to show its age much to Cristiano Ronaldo’s dismay.

Ratcliffe confirmed this concentration on the men’s team in a recent interview with Bloomberg, in which he said: “We’ve been pretty much focused on how do we resolve the first-team issues in that environment, and that’s been pretty full-time for the first six months.”

The £50 million influx into the training facility began to set off alarm bells concerning the women’s team following the billionaire’s radio silence as it was announced that Marc Skinner’s side would vacate their new indoor training premises that were opened last summer and cost £11 million to accommodate the men and, in the meantime, move into portable buildings on the site.

As reported by The Athletic, this has prompted the Professional Footballers’ Association to seek conversations with United after it became aware of growing discontent regarding the management of the women’s team.

This comes after both arms of the Red Devils struggled last season. The women finished 20 points off WSL champions Chelsea, and the men finished with their lowest points total ever in the Premier League, conceding over 80 goals in all competitions.

To compile more misery on this, frankly, shambolic treatment on the side that calls Leigh Sports Village their main home, captain Katie Zelem, striker Lucia Garcia and No. 1 goalkeeper Mary Earps all departed the club for free last week.

All three were key members in the historic 2022/23 campaign, which ended in heartbreak. The club lost the title to Chelsea on the final day of the season, the closest the club’s men or women have been to winning the league since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

Earps leaving hurt like when your childhood best friend moves far away. Everyone knew it was going to happen at some point, but it didn’t dampen the dread of seeing the goodbye post.

The world-class shot-stopper left after many months of deliberation because the club didn’t align with where she wanted to be in her career, challenging for trophies. She is now deservedly the highest-paid goalkeeper in women’s football with PSG.

Unfortunately, big names leaving for nothing isn’t uncommon and precedes Ratcliffe’s time, as seen by Alessia Russo’s move to Arsenal and Ona Batlle’s exit to Barcelona.

Russo, the club’s main goal threat turned down numerous contract offers from United and joined rivals Arsenal as she was frustrated that United didn’t start negotiations earlier.

In a mind-boggling show of ineptitude, the Reds rejected Chelsea’s then-world-record bid of £450,000 in January before her contract expiry. So, instead of having money to invest in the squad, United got nothing except an egg on their face when the forward left in the summer.

In classic Glazer fashion, while these negotiations were ongoing, instead of using funds to secure Russo’s signature quickly, Avram spent £250,000 chartering a private jet to attend the women’s FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea in 2023.

The women won the FA Cup last season, the first time in their history since the club’s rebirth in 2018. They beat Spurs (Lads, it’s Tottenham) in front of a sold-out Wembley Stadium. However, they were unable to celebrate with the rest of the organisation as United cancelled the end-of-season awards due to Ten Hag’s side’s poor performances.

What makes this complete disregard worse is it is now being reported that many of the players of the women’s team found out about the cancellation through social media. If the shoe was on the other foot there would be uproar, a tsunami of headlines and social media would be a cesspit of the worst kind of football fan.

The WSL has seen attendance figures rise over 200% since England women won the Euros in 2022, making it one of the fastest-growing sports in the country.

However, the women remain an afterthought at United, and you’d think that being a billionaire, Ratcliffe would understand that rapid growth equals money. However, he has shown no intention or interest in giving them a second look.

This is shown by Ratcliffe confirming that any plans regarding the women are still TBC, which shows an almost admirable level of disregard for the side considering his time involved in the club.

His wording in the Bloomberg interview is very telling. He refers to the first team as the men, which shows that they’re his priority. It’s obvious that the men were the main attraction for him when he bought his stake in the club, which is fine; it’s what he knows, but he didn’t just buy the men.

The women’s team are treated as if they are only renting the license of Manchester United and are a separate third party instead of being an integral part of a global brand.

It’s no coincidence that the front runners in the WSL, Arsenal and Chelsea, are intertwined with the success and recognition of the men’s team, which has resulted in millions of pounds as the new generation of football lovers become their fans.

According to a report by Deloitte, Manchester United had the second-biggest revenue of the top 15 clubs in Europe, generating £6.8 million in 2022-23. However, 74% of this was through commercial partnerships.

The difference between United and Arsenal is that 58% of the North London side’s revenue came from matchday following multiple occasions of selling out the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners are visible, and watching the women looks enjoyable and inviting, whereas the Red Devils are hidden away through sponsorships and club statements that no one will ever read.

United’s recent actions could actively discourage young boys and girls from supporting the women’s side because why should they care if the club doesn’t?

Supporting Manchester United’s men’s team in recent years has mainly generated feelings of frustration and disappointment but this is nothing compared to what those who also support the women are tormented with.

This is Manchester United, the biggest club in the world for a reason. They climbed to the top through innovation and ruthlessness, but with the women’s side, they’re as initiative as a chocolate teapot and as sharp as a blunt butter knife. This needs to change!

If you’re ever in the position to buy a football club, remember you’re buying the whole organisation, not just your favourite players, and the longer you ignore the women, the more money you set on fire.

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