The long and the short of six months of Sent Her Forward

It’s six months since I launched Sent Her Forward, and I’m delighted it’s still here.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support I’ve received and the compliments and appreciation expressed.

It’s confirmed my hunch that there was sufficient interest – nay, enthusiasm – in women’s football (and not just at Super League level) to support a new blog/website and complement those excellent sites that were already well established.

I’ve made a lot of friends through Sent Her Forward – even though I don’t hide behind fluffy puffs that will offend no-one.

While my intention is to be positive about women’s and girls’ football, I don’t shy away from the big issues… and there is inevitably going to be fallout along the way.

But although I always endeavour to be honest in my writing, I believe most people can see by now that I’m not out for sensationalist headlines (though I’m partial to an eye-catching one!).

I’m looking to generate genuine interest in the game, helping to spread the word to the next generation, which I believe will be absolutely crucial in carrying on the momentum that FA initiatives have given the game in recent years.

Summer ‘supremacy’

I know the FA is a frequent target for ire among those not involved at Super League level, where a disproportionate amount of its resources are invested.

And I believe the FA is not only missing a trick in overlooking so much of what is done by volunteers at grassroots level, but is in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water if it does not address the mismatch, as now is precisely the time to harness the interest and commitment in the grassroots game.

But I do believe that for a nation to excel at the highest level it does need an élite – and that élite does need to be properly funded and rewarded.

What I believe was more contemptible was its initial efforts to marginalise those key leagues just under the two summer divisions, not least by cutting them adrift of the Super League with an indeterminate ban on promotion and relegation.

Competition – and tangible reward for succeeding in that competition – is the lifeblood of sport, and I pay tribute to the campaigning of the likes of Save Our Women’s Premier League, and especially the likes of Lewes’s head of football operations (still sounds funny to write that), Jacquie Agnew, who has invested a lot of time in helping persuade the FA to level the playing field.

Much will depend on what happens next, but if the FA gets it right at the top, I am absolutely convinced that the young players and coaches I have seen this season will ensure that the next generation of women’s football in the English game is even more talented than the present one.

And so to the future of Sent Her Forward.

Cutting back?

Hayley Grinham holds the Sussex Under-16 Challenge CupBelow are a few facts and figures that might tell you something of the story behind the journey to ensure Sent Her Forward has become a respected part of the women’s football message.

You will see I have watched quite a few matches this season and written probably approaching 200,000 words in six months (students: don’t start whingeing about your theses any more!).

And maintaining and improving the website consumes most of the time when I am not earning money.

I’m not sure I can keep up that level of commitment, so I hope you will understand if I cover slightly fewer matches next season, or perhaps overlook some items that in an ideal world I would write about with relish.

Please don’t stop letting me know what interests you and what you think I might be interested in.

It’s essential that your interest does not wane because it’s you, the readers – and contributors – who have made Sent Her Forward what it is.

And I have plenty of plans for features during the close-season.

But I need to find a way of getting some of my life back!

Shorter reports?

That may involve reducing my weekend previews and round-ups – perhaps not covering such a wide geographical and divisional ranges.

Or is that part of the attraction of Sent Her Forward?

I am also considering significantly reducing the length of my match reports.

At the moment I write considered pieces of 1,000+ words, focusing on key issues or dramatic developments surrounding a game, as well as the nitty-gritty of who scored and who played well.

I do this partly because it provides a different perspective from most others and partly because I want to prove that women’s and girls’ football is as deserving of proper, intelligent coverage and analysis as men’s and boys’ football.

Adur players celebrate with the Women's Division shieldOne of my day jobs is to write sports news for The Times Online, and especially to sub-edit match reports and analysis from its excellent sports journalists, who all tend to write considered pieces, to broadsheet length.

I am thinking about reducing my reports to half, or maybe a third of the current length, which would mean straighter, to-the-point reports of games, perhaps with some post-match quotes, but mentioning far fewer players and painting a slightly starker picture of the match itself.

I would very much value your views on this, as there’s no point in my writing 1,500 words if they’re not read or valued, when people would be happier to read just a brief rundown of the main match events.

On the other hand, if you are happy to persevere with them, reading your own name – or that of your daughter, sister or friend – in a comprehensive account, I am happy to continue writing them.

I shall also investigate having sponsorship or advertising on my site, although this would require a move from the current basic WordPress template.

I would be interested to know whether any club, related business or individual would be interested in taking out sponsorship or advertising.

I would appreciate it if as many of you as possible would take the time to let me know about these possible changes – particularly the length of match reports – ideally by adding your comments in the box at the bottom of this page, or by e-mailing me at sentherforward@yahoo.co.uk.

Now, some stats about Sent Her Forward:

Launched: November 27 2013
Days in existence: 180
Number of articles written: 180
Views: 31,500+
Daily average views: 175

Match reports: 40
Cup finals: Six
Play-offs: One
Double-headers (two games on the same day): Four
FAW Cup games: Four
County Cup games: Three
FAW Premier League games: Four
Other “grassroots” games: 29 (of which four were youth games)

Goals: 184 (average 4.6/game)
Nil-nils: None
Biggest wins: 12-0; 8-0 (twice); 7-0; 7-1; 6-0
Fewest goals: 0-1
Draws: Seven (four 1-1; one 2-2; one 3-3; one 4-4)

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