Women’s Championship club Coventry United has gone into voluntary liquidation and has been forced to release players two days before Christmas - and only months after turning professional.
News first emerged as players revealed on Twitter their sorrow over suddenly being without a club, despite having previously been given the apparent security of a full-time contract.
A statement from the club later read, “With regret the board of directors have instructed BK Plus Limited to assist with placing the company/club into creditors voluntary liquidation.”
Those affected have received an outpouring of support from players and staff at WSL and Championship clubs, as well as journalists and fans.
Coventry goalkeeper Olivia Clark tweeted, “I have no words. To come into work and to find out that you no longer have the job that you’ve always dreamed of is heart breaking.
“Thanks for making me a professional footballer and for the best two seasons. The best group of girls you could ask for. Red and Green forever.”
Holly Chandler said, “Sometimes life is filled with things outside your control! I'm heartbroken. Thank you for making my dream of being a professional footballer come true! I've made the best memories and friends. Red and Green forever.”
The reaction from the Coventry players was largely disappointment, as well as gratitude to have been given the chance to be professional players in the first place.
Those looking at the situation from outside the club, including Manchester City and England defender Alex Greenwood, were far angrier about things on behalf of their peers.
Absolutely gutted for my best mate Mollie Green and all the girls at Coventry United!” Greenwood posted on Twitter. “The sacrifices these girls make to become professional footballers to be told halfway through a season you no longer have a job, or a club, is simply not good enough!!!”
Manchester United’s Aoife Mannion called it ‘shocking’.
“Hope at the very minimum the FA and PFA can financially support them through this time. How can players lose their jobs only months after the team becomes a ‘professional’ outfit??” she said.
Liverpool’s Becky Jane said, “Unfortunately don’t think the girls will get help from the PFA as they don’t support the Championship…another example of why players need help and guidance from the professional governing body in what is the 2nd best women’s league in the country.”
A response from fellow Championship side Lewes spoke of ‘real anger and exasperation’, citing the difficulty for clubs without Premier League backing to establish themselves as a result of too few league fixtures to help generate revenue and pitiful competition prize money.
Journalist Suzy Wrack tweeted, “More needs to be done to expose the myth of professionalism and semi-professionalism. The wages and hours of all outside the very, very top WSL sides are not acceptable, can barely be lived on and do not allow players to build up a safety net.
“There are serious and huge questions to be asked about the stability of the leagues and the licensing criteria that underpins them.”