Our monthly column - written by Linzi Hewitt, Head of Football Development
Three years after Lincoln Ladies’ demise and controversial move to Notts County, women’s football in Lincolnshire is soaring.
Lincoln Ladies – the flagship female club of the county, established in 1995 – won back-to-back promotions in each season bar one to reach The FA Women’s Premier Northern Division in 2002 and their success propelled from there.
On March 22, 2010, Lincoln were announced as one of the eight FA WSL teams for the inaugural 2011 season and were at the forefront of female development and driving the women’s game in the county.
In 2014, the Football Association granted Notts County a licence to play in the Women’s Super League, but this licence was not granted as a new club.
The licence was granted on the basis that Lincoln Ladies will be relocated to form a new franchise at Notts County, a move that was compared to the 2003 relocation of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes.
It was widely reported at the time that the loss of Lincoln Ladies would be the catalyst to the end of women’s football in the county.
Yet approaching the festive season in the 2016-17 football season, the picture could not be different.
Seven teams in the county now compete in The FA women’s football pyramid at a regional level, a 130 per cent increase since the 2013-14 with promotions for developing Lincolnshire clubs like Sleaford Town Ladies, Winterton Ladies, Lincoln Moorlands Ladies and Grimsby Borough Ladies, all joining Nettleham Ladies, Scunthorpe & Bottesford Ladies and Cleethorpes Town Ladies in Step W3 &W4 of the pyramid.
Growth is also continuing at a County Women’s League level, with 12 teams in Lincolnshire competing across three different leagues.
Our own Lincolnshire County Women’s League boasts six teams – North Lindum Hawks Ladies, Louth Old Boys, HBW United Ladies, Healing Hotspur Ladies, Birchwood Belles Ladies and Gainsborough Ladies.
They all take part in traditional 11v11 league and cup competitions, but also compete in a modern-flexi league structure in January and February, taking part in a 5v5 format on artificial turf, which has proven an invaluable development in the game to maintain a fixture programme during the cruel, difficult winter months on natural turf pitches and retaining players in the game through regular fixture patterns.
On January 15, we enter the quarter-final stages of our prestigious Lincolnshire FA Women’s Cup – previously dominated by Lincoln Ladies with seven honours in the competition since the 2002-03 season.
In our new wave of female football in Lincolnshire, Nettleham Ladies remain victorious at the helm since 2012-13, picking up the trophy back-to-back for three seasons, and they look to retain that title against Grimsby Borough in the quarter-final which will be played at Mulsanne Park, Nettleham.
Other fixtures you can watch on January 15 are North Lindum Hawks Ladies v Bottesford-Scunthorpe Ladies at Ravendale Sports Ground, Lincoln; Sleaford Town Ladies v Thurlby Tigers at Sleaford Sport Association; Louth Old Boys Ladies v Lincoln Moorlands Ladies at London Road Pavilion, Louth.
Get down, support your local team and be part of the continuing success of women’s football in Lincolnshire.