Golf hackers will be familiar with the idea of “pay to play”, and most Sunday morning footballers and club rugby players will expect to pay their subs before being allowed on to the pitch for their weekly game.
But there is a mix of shock and outrage that the women who play for Crystal Palace Ladies have been told to find themselves £250 in sponsorship cash or face not playing for the club any more.
Coming from a Premier League club which has just give its star, male player, a contract worth £130,000 per week, and which reported £11.8million profit on its most recent accounts, the move towards the women players seems especially mean.
The Grauniad newspaper is reporting this afternoon that the move “has caused anger among some senior figures in the women’s game who feel it sends out an unhelpful message about the importance of female players to the club”.
Palace’s women’s team play in the FA Women’s Championship, the second tier of the game, and are due to play their first game of the season on Sunday. But, the Grauniad report says, “some players, who may be drafted up to the first-team squad, are still unsure how they will raise the £250 which the club is insisting it needs for subscription fees”.
An unnamed source connected with the women’s team is quoted as saying, “The timing of the demand to find sponsorship was unhelpful, too, the same week that Wilfried Zaha was given a new £130,000 a week contract.
“We know it is a different beast entirely to the men’s game but some of the players are getting really fed up with the structure and the message it sends. They’ve been given a letter to hand out to potential sponsors, and it’s all very patronising.”
The report suggests that the club believes that by getting their women’s players out pitching for their own sponsorship packages, they might “strengthen ties with the community”.
Thing is, the women players already have strong ties with the community. Two of the biggest Palace fanzines, Five-Year Plan and The Eagles Beak, already sponsor aspects of the women’s team.
The Guardian updated its online report on Tuesday night to add a statement from the club, which said, “All 21 members of the senior squad have bespoke contracts, funded by Crystal Palace, and are either paid wages or are reimbursed for expenses. They do not pay a subscription fee. They are encouraged to find sponsors to help raise the club’s profile and forge links with the business and employment community but it is not a condition of playing.
“Members of every other team at Palace Ladies pay an annual membership fee but reserve team players, whose subscription is already subsidised by the club, have been told their membership fees will be waived completely if they can find £250 sponsorship.”
Updated Sep 4 to add Crystal Palace FC statement
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