They were unwanted company, now Pompey Ladies have finally been accepted

The Pompey Ladies show off their new maroon kit provided for free by Sondico Picture: Michael Hulf Photography
The Pompey Ladies show off their new maroon kit provided for free by Sondico Picture: Michael Hulf Photography

On December 1, Fratton Park will once more host Spurs in a league encounter.

Except, on this occasion it will be in the form of women’s football for what represents a landmark occasion.

In 42 years of operating in their current guise, Pompey Ladies have never played at the ground of the club whose crest they wear.

In recent times Moneyfields and, presently, Westleigh Park have served as their home.

They attract regular gates of 100-150 to bolster the coffers of an entirely self-financing operation.

The club has long operated separately from Pompey – not entirely from choice but more through circumstance and the necessity of not relying on those stood with their backs to them.

It wasn’t always the case, Milan Mandaric donated £6,000 in 2005.

Then came the days of Premier League extravagance, the boom and bust era headed by a succession of owners boasting of tantalising visions and jaw-dropping ambition to be bankrolled by astonishing wealth.

Only, none of their blueprints involved backing Pompey Ladies, neither in terms of finance or support.

They were denied the use of club facilities, shunned and fobbed off.

The only feeling of belonging came through the match-day programme and the occasional on-pitch parading of trophies during the men’s fixtures.

Instead, they became an island within the island, a republic driven by long-serving chairman Dave Coyle and coaching staff serving as volunteers without accepting a penny for their selfless labour.

Through subs, the players assisted the cash flow considerably, while club kit was several years behind that sported by the men’s teams in both the Premier League and then the plummet down the Football League.

During Pompey’s second administration period, which they exited last April, the ladies were told they had to pay £450 up front to maintain the tradition of hosting their end-of-season presentation night in Fratton Park’s Victory Bar.

Unable to meet such bills, they instead relocated to Moneyfields, where Blues hero Linvoy Primus stepped in to complete the presentation honours.

Yet in December, Katie Poore and Perry Northeast’s side will step out on the Fratton turf wearing a strip given to them by the club and the Fans’ Conference in a joint-partnership.

That follows on from June when their presentation evening was back at the Victory Bar, with Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin and chairman Iain McInnes handing out the trophies.

And, perhaps most reassuring of all, in the recent Pompey Supporters’ Trust mission statement, Pompey Ladies were included in the push to embrace all community aspects of football.

A new ownership and entirely fresh attitude towards a team who so often have been ignored.

Chairman Coyle said: ‘Milan acknowledged us and helped us out when he could, even donating £6,000 one season.

‘Nobody else was interested. Sometimes we felt it was like we were a thorn in their side.

‘We always had to go knocking on their door but didn’t get a lot back from it when they did agree to listen to what we had to say.

‘It sounds a bit cold and callous but, to be perfectly honest, there really wasn’t that interest in the women’s game. They never really acknowledged us.

‘Thankfully, women’s football is now at the forefront and clubs across the country are taking more interest, particularly here. We’ve been told we can have one or two matches at Fratton Park every season, which is like going to Wembley for us.

‘To be frank, it’s the first time the club has really been close to the ladies.

‘We now feel part of things rather than being out on our own.’

Pompey have made it clear they are in no position to help fund the ladies, although have pledged to support them in other ways.

That includes staging the Premier League southern division match with Spurs, with profits to be split 50/50 or the club covering any losses.

The ladies have also enjoyed a new kit this season, ditching their three-year-old strip in the process.

The home kit and tracksuits have been funded through the club, with £1,000 also coming from the Fans’ Conference through their 12th Man arm.

The club’s kit suppliers, Sondico, provided the maroon strip – first unveiled during the league fixture with Gillingham a fortnight ago – free of charge.

In terms of finances, the ladies remain 100-per-cent self-funded, although their two main sponsors are not based in Hampshire – Symec, from Bristol, and a&o, from High Wycombe.

They both pay £5,000 between them.

In addition, players are asked to pay £15 a month in subs or get £150 a year through sponsorship, with eight of the players achieving the latter.

Another big income stream is through prize money, with the club receiving £3,500 when promoted to the Premier League national division two years ago and last year’s league cup run reaping £2,000.

Off the field, Coyle and treasurer Ian Warren are joined by general assistant Phil Couch and business manager Vanessa Raynbird, overseeing six squads, including age groups at under-16, 15, 14 and 13 level.

Pompey Ladies have learned to live without Pompey, now they have the chance to line up alongside them.