Thornaby FC committee members who voted to scrap women’s teams step down

Stars including Arsenal and England striker Beth Mead criticised the decision.

A Teesside football club have been criticised for axeing all of their women’s teams
A Teesside football club have been criticised for axeing all of their women’s teams (Mike Egerton/PA)

Six committee members who voted to withdraw their football club’s female section – leaving 100 women and girls without a club – are understood to have stepped down after stars including Beth Mead lined up to criticise the decision.

Teesside-based Thornaby FC, who play in the North East Regional Women’s Football League – tier six of the football pyramid – announced the decision on Sunday evening following an emergency meeting, blaming low staffing levels.

Arsenal and England striker Mead, who was born in nearby Whitby, said on social media: “Disgusted to see this decision, the women’s game is on the up but we still have committees making these horrible decisions.

“It’s not good enough, these young girls deserve better.”

Labour candidate and former Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said on Monday that “six board members responsible for the decision have now stepped down”, adding: “I believe this is right.

“I have made contact with the remaining board members who want to retain the female teams and build a new diverse and wide-ranging board alongside representatives from the women’s team.

“I look forward to meeting with them in the coming days to provide any help or support I can offer in how we make progress from this point.”

Eleven-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson called the move “so sad”, while Spurs and Lionesses player Bethany England added: “This should not be happening.”

The Football Association was “very disappointed” and said its local branch, the North Riding County FA, was in contact with the club.

After the club announced their decision, Thornaby’s women’s section said on social media they will lose their under 7s, 8s, 10s, 11s, 15s and women’s teams, leaving over 100 girls without a club.

Thornaby Women manager Abbey Lyle, who led the senior team to a third-placed finish in their first season, said her players were “absolutely floored”.

Lyle added: “We narrowly missed promotion and that’s in our first season. It’s nothing to do with our positioning, it’s more to do with gender because there’s no other reason for it.

“We’re all friends at the women. A lot of them do it for mental health, we’ve got firewomen, paramedics, policewomen, they do it to get away from life.

“They come and see their friends, have a laugh, play sport. It’s affected everyone differently and we’ve had to approach it differently to every age group I suppose.”

Thornaby have also received an outpouring of support from other grassroots clubs on social media and Lyle admitted the response had been “amazing”.

“Seeing the likes of Beth Mead, Bethany England, Tanni-Grey Thompson, all of these people… I’m lost for words,” she said.

“We grew up playing against the likes of Beth Mead and some of our girls played with her. For her to help, reach out and share her support just shows we’re a community and we stick together.

“It’s about the community as a whole and the messages are insane, it’s amazing. I don’t want six people to put a dampener on how far women’s football has come because it’s come a massive way.”

Club chairman Garry Morris did not back the committee’s decision and, according to reports, he and another official will remain at the club.

The FA said it was “very disappointed” by the decision that had been taken and a spokesperson for the national governing body said: “In recent years, we have seen unprecedented growth across the women’s and girls’ game in this country, and we are fully committed to ensuring all women and girls can access and play the game – whether that be in schools or in their local community.

“We are currently supporting North Riding County FA who are in contact with the club to see if a suitable resolution can be agreed.”

None of the club’s committee members were available for comment. As of Monday evening, Thornaby FC’s official X account appeared to have been deleted.