Farnborough FC have taken one huge step towards strengthening their community links and securing their short-term survival – all thanks to a bit of Girl Power!
This week, the cash-strapped club signed an exciting long-term venture with Championship club Reading to host their Ladies’ first-team matches over the spring and summer months for the next two seasons.
The deal is worth a potential six-figure sum for the Cherrywood Road club with the Madjeski Stadium’s Head Groundsman Greg Bolton taking over the maintenance of Farnborough’s pitch with immediate effect.
At the same time, Boro have also announced the near completion of the PRE Stand, while the long-awaited opening of the new cafe and kitchen, on March 2, will coincide with a whole new refurbishment of the clubhouse and bar.
Reading Ladies play in the second tier of the newly re-structured Women's Premier League where they compete against the likes of Aston Villa, Sunderland and the famous Doncaster Rovers Belles with a place in the Women's Super League up for grabs for the winners.
In fact, the Royals have already kicked their season off with an FA Cup victory against Millwall at the weekend, now they prepare to start life at Farnborough FC in that same competition on Sunday March 16 when Blackburn Rovers are the visitors.
Then, it is hoped that big crowds will come down when the likes of Chelsea and the country’s No.1 Women’s team, Arsenal grace Paddy Power Park on May 1 and 15 respectively.
The league season itself kicks off with the visit of Yeovil Town on April 16 and runs through to October with a month-long break in June.
And manager Jayne Ludlow, a former Welsh international and Arsenal star midfielder, believes securing the deal with Farnborough can help her side fulfil their title aspirations.
She said: “The stadium is fantastic, hopefully it will suit us very much. It’s flat, it’s a nice big area and the way we are hoping to play this year, we could not have asked for any better.
“We’re really excited to be here and hopefully we can the whole community on side to can and watch us in our home games and maybe even away as well. The girls are excited to kick off our programme down here for the FA Cup game and for the rest of the season.
“It was a big project for us to find a home ground that we were comfortable with and would help us grow and become even more successful and Farnborough ticks every box for us. It’s a lovely stadium, it has a good seating area for our fans and the surface is generally very good and we are really looking forward to playing here.
“What I would say to the locals out there is come and watch us, we’ve got some fantastic young, international players with pace, technical ability and a bit of fight too, so a bit of everything.”
“A lot of people have commented about the women’s game, but come and see us, make your own mind up and see how we play and hopefully you’ll be impressed.
“We’re also hoping to get involved with local schools, get our girls out there coaching locally and hopefully we can increase the participation of the women’s game.”
Similarly, Farnborough chief Spencer Day is delighted to have the girls on board and believes the partnership will help both clubs to blossom in the long-term.
“This deal is part of the club’s long-term strategy of being sustainable in the community. It’s a long-term contract, it’s got lots of elements to it which will see the two clubs work together, ie, advertising, marketing, and it’s vital that you bring in consistent income, which this will do.
“In the space of one week, I’ve already had a major, blue chip sponsor on the phone interested in renewing, so that shows what it is capable of. It’s massive for the club, it’s worth a lot of money and we want to work with Reading and be partners with them.
“We already have a relationship with Reading with a couple of their lads coming here on loan, and we’d be crazy not to build on that and this is only the start, we hope.
“It means summer football, a huge amount of investment into the pitch, starting immediately and with our support, and we can’t ask for much more.
“With the imminent relaunch of our bar and new commercial kitchen the timing of this deal is perfect. We have also agreed a joint initiative regarding sponsorship and advertising and working together in the long term will be a major benefit for the area after a tough few months – it’s a great start to 2014.
“Attendances in ladies football are on the rise and we hope this link up will bring substantial new supporters into Paddy Power Park with all the additional revenues that will bring.
“Let’s hope the public will get behind the girls and come through the gate to watch both teams.
“It’s a community club and a great opportunity for us for move forward. It’s a long-term thing and potentially huge, but we’ve got to work on it and we look forward to doing just that.”
Admission fees for matches played at Farnborough FC have been set at £4 for adults and £2 concessions.
Reading Ladies fixtures at Farnborough FC
- Sunday Mar 16 – Blackburn Rovers (ko 2pm)
- Thursday May 1 – Chelsea (ko 7.45pm)
- Thursday May 15 – Arsenal (ko 7.45pm)
- Sunday May 18 – Durham Ladies (ko 2pm)
- Saturday June 28 – Aston Villa (ko 6pm)
- Saturday July 12 – Watford Ladies (ko 6pm)
- Saturday July 26 – London Bees (ko 6pm)
- Saturday August 23 – Sunderland (ko 6pm)
- Saturday August 30 – Doncaster Belles (ko 6pm)
- Saturday September 13 – Oxford United (ko 6pm)
- Saturday October 11 – Millwall Lionesses (ko 6pm)
- Sunday October 26 – Watford Ladies (ko 2pm)