Portsmouth Ladies sign formal deal with men’s club

Portsmouth Ladies chairman Mick Williams, Portsmouth FC chairman Mark Catlin and commercial director Anna Mitchelll at the signing of an official agreement between the two clubs (photo provided by Portsmouth FC)

Mick Williams (left) and Mark Catlin, pictured with Portsmouth commercial director Anna Mitchell, both emphasised the importance of being part of the “Pompey family”

While West Ham United were, some might say, being shamed into taking over the women’s team that bear their name and Lewes were talking about equal budgets for their men’s and women’s senior sides, Portsmouth Ladies chairman Mick Williams was quietly going into bat for the club he holds so dear to his heart.

When your “parent” club are fresh out of successive administrations, still finding their feet in the Football League’s lowest division and thinking twice before splashing out the kind of sums previous stewards of the club would consider loose change, you have to set your sights a little lower.

But Williams, who is proving an admirable successor to the late Dave Coyle, who did so much for the women’s set-up during his time as ladies’ chairman, declared himself “very pleased” with the outcome of his discussions with club officials, including Pompey chairman Mark Catlin.

While Portsmouth Football Club are not taking over the running of Pompey Ladies, nor paying for their kit, let alone providing equal budgets, they have moved closer to their football “cousins”, producing a formal agreement over the use of training facilities and equipment, medical and training provision and the opportunity to raise funds through the higher profile that comes from a closer relationship.

Yet – significantly for a man who has not thought twice about dipping into his own pocket to keep Portsmouth Ladies going – it’s that latter point – that formal approval of the ladies by the Fratton Park outfit – that pleases Williams most.

The announcement would confirm Portsmouth Ladies’ standing as part of the “Pompey family” and reaffirm Portsmouth Community Football Club’s commitment to support them, he told me. “We have been part of the Pompey family, but this cements it.”

The club said in their statement that the deal, signed by the two chairmen, would provide Portsmouth Ladies with access to the club’s training and physiotherapy facilities at their complex in the city, as well as help from Pompey’s coaching staff.

‘Integral part’

Portsmouth have also offered them use of club facilities to stage fundraising events and will continue to promote them online.

Catlin described the ladies team as “an integral part of the Pompey family”, adding: “The ladies share our branding and we are very proud of their playing achievements over the years. This deal brings them closer to the club than ever before.

Williams said the men’s support meant a lot to the female players, who must surely be envious of the opportunities that their male counterparts – even in the depths of the Football League – enjoy.

“They wear the Pompey shirt, but it’s important that they feel part of it,” he said. “I want Pompey Ladies to be proud of being part of the Pompey family and Pompey to be proud  of having Pompey Ladies in the family.”

In the short term, at least, Williams and his wife, Ann, will continue to make sure the club have the funds for day-to-day operation, but after last month’s successful deal with Portsmouth Football Club, he is confident of further co-operation in the future.

“My past experience tells me that if we asked them to do something, they will help you.

“Pompey fans saved Portsmouth Football Club from extinction, and I am proud that the club has further extended support to Pompey Ladies to ensure that all sectors of Pompey football remain a massively important part of this community.”

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