Prime Minister drawn into women’s football scandal


It had to happen sooner or later. Gordon Brown has become embroiled in the scandal over the exclusion of Sunderland Women’s football club from the proposed Super League of eight teams – despite being current Premier League leaders, FA (Women’s) Cup finalists last season and a team containing nine international players at different levels.

The FA has been maintaining the apparent fiction that no decision has yet been made, even though the club says it has been told – by, presumably, the FA – that Sunderland’s strong case for a place has been brushed aside on commercial and marketing grounds.

Among the many football supporters outraged by this latest piece of discriminatory nonsense from the FA were non-Sunderland fans, including Wull Rowan from our good friends at FootballUnited (

Will decided to start a petition with the aim of shaming the FA into making the decision that would surely strike any neutral observer as decent and fair: offer Sunderland WFC a place.

He thought it would also be a good idea to bring the matter to the attention of the leader of a government that claims to support sexual equality (quite apart from its notional commitment to natural justice).

Some bureaucratic jobsworth at Number 10 banned his message from the Downing Street petitions website, evidently because it contained a link to Salut! Sunderland’s article on the subject.

Will duly omitted the link and, for safe measure, any reference to the FA. Back came the custodian of petitions with a chummy “Hi” coupled with regrets that another excuse had now been found: the subject was “outside the remit or powers of the Prime Minister and Government”.

To which my own response is: “Surely if Brown’s citizens ask the Government to do something, or draw its attention to some injustice, it automatically becomes an issue of relevance to number 10! MPs frequently make representations on matters over which they strictly speaking have no jurisdiction. But overcome that hurdle and they’ll just come up with another clause to justify rejecting it.”

The petiton – which can be seen and signed at this link – reads:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to urge that the Football Association are equitable in their treatment of men’s and women’s football leagues

Sunderland Womens Football Club have been excluded from next season’s eight team Premier League, by The FA, reportedly on commercial and marketing grounds.

According to a report in The Guardian Chairman of the Sunderland WFC, Maurice Alderson, has been told of the decision, which he describes as a “kick in the teeth”.

The Club is presently leading the Womens Premier League includes 9 internationals amongst its players, and has the support of Sunderland AFC.

It is inconceivable that the FA would contemplate a similar exclusion in the mens Premier League. To treat the women’s game in this way is bad for all football.”

Says Will: “It doesn’t have to end here: I’m astonished that The FA may have behaved in this way… here at FootballUnited we care hugely about all levels of the game: we’ll gladly put together our own petition on this.”

Colin Randall

* With thanks to Podknox’s photos at Flickr for the image of Gordon Brown in deep water.

7 thoughts on “Prime Minister drawn into women’s football scandal”

  1. The iPhone is going to change Scanning forever

    Salut! adds: Not here it’s not Dyckman – you’re a cretinous and now linkless web parasite

  2. If Arsenal were top, having played a few games more than the second-placed team, is it likely that this would have been an argument used to exclude them?

    I realise, John, that the FA needs apologists (witness the appallingly selective punishment of Wolves for doing once what the arrogant “big” clubs do all the time) but this doesn’t wash.

  3. I’m all for it, but the petition only takes your signature if you make a donation – tell me if I’ve read this wrong?

  4. John – I would suggest that the criteria within the appliaction pack are/were wrong, if indeed they are based on “commercial and marketing grounds” rather than ibility. It’s about football, not finance, and while finance has to be considered, Sunderland ladies have had so little money that it’s hardly been an issue. I’ve heard some of the financial stipulations, e.g. having a certain number of players who MUST earn a certain amount. How divisive is that in a team where, historically, nobody has earned anything?btw they are top of the league beacuse they have more points than anyone else. They may well not finish there, granted, butthey are there on merit, not because they are rich

  5. Unfortunately the Sunderland bid failed because it failed to meet the mandatory criteria, as listed iwithin the application pack. The judging panel is a mix of FA members and non-FA members. Sunderland do have a right of appeal. Btw Sunderland are top of the table because they have already played most of their games. The other ‘big’ teams have a number of games in hand.

  6. Well my cynical self is not surprised by the responses from the Downing Street jobsworths. When MPs such as Nicholas Winterton demand 1st class travel because “MPs are not like other people”, (how can he represent his constituents if he feels so superior to them) and millionaires claim for bath plugs and chocolate from the public purse, then it is pretty obvious that there is a core of people in public office (including civil servants) who are more concerned with protecting their own interests and their super rich friends than in taking up causes of morality.

    Unfortunately, my MP who was a thoroughly decent bloke and hard working backbencher, died suddenly on Boxing Day. He took up my issues with the Metropolitan Police after our relegation in 97 at Selhurst Park. Those of you who were there will remember that despite going down our fans were in good spirits. After the game some bloke went for a ride on a police motor bike and all hell broke out with truncheons drawn and police horses being use to threaten middle aged men and their kids. I’m sure he would have made sure this issue was raised in committees or even the House of Commons itself.

    Those of you with MPs who actually look to represent their constituents, rather than avoid them, could do worse than to write to them directly.

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