In exciting news, Burnley Football Club have shared their long term strategy to professionalise their women’s football team and fully integrating them with the men’s first team. This will include shared use of their Barnfield Training Centre facilities with immediate effect, or at least when the government allow the return to football for the tier three clubs.
Burnley Women and the wider youth operations will come under football club operations, with the aim of increasing the team’s presence, infrastructure, and investment. With the day-to-day running of the team moving away from Burnley FC in the Community to become its own entity, operated as part of the club.
This major investment will including the creation of a women’s academy, although presently the Football Association are not offering any further Regional Talent Club (RTC) licences.
Back in the 2018/19 season, Burnley won the National League Division One North, the fourth tier of the women’s football pyramid. They finished thirteen points above their nearest rivals, Brighouse Town.
Sadly Burnely have been unable to complete a full season in the thirty tier due to the pandemic. When the National League Northern Division was suspended, Burnley occupied eighth position, nine points behind AFC Fylde in second place. Huddersfield Town are top by six points but having played three games more than their nearest rivals.
I have argued for a long time that the pathway to the highest levels of women’s football is not as accessible as it should be. With little or no prize money offered and the minimal movement between leagues, it is very difficult to move up the pyramid. So there will be a little bit of work in order to achieve their aim of Championship football by 2025. However, with a bit of investment, I see this as realistic and achievable. These facilities will no doubt attract the best talent in the north-west, including those currently playing for their rivals.
Alan Pace, Chairman of Burnley Football Club, said: “The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was arguably a turning point for the women’s game, attracting new fans and inspiring men and women all over the world to see football in a new light. The global pandemic has since had a huge impact on women’s football, but I believe it has a major role to play in the sport’s future growth, bringing in new audiences and demographics.
“Burnley FC is an inclusive club for all and today’s announcement signals our intent to put women’s football at the very heart of it. Over the coming seasons, we will fully support and invest in our new women’s football strategy, with the ambition to gain promotion to the FA Women’s Championship within four years and ultimately become a full-time professional outfit.”
Neil Hart, CEO of Burnley FC, added: “I would like to personally thank Burnley FC in the Community for all their hard work so far. I see this as a huge opportunity to move BFC Women forward and we will be supporting women’s manager Matt Bee and the players to do this. I am looking forward to rekindling my involvement with BFC Women and their full integration into the day-to-day operations of Burnley FC”.
Matt Bee, Manager of Burnley Women, said: “Today’s announcement is exciting for all aspirational young footballers in Burnley, with the club demonstrating real ambition within the women’s game and a commitment to invest in infrastructure and development over the coming seasons.
“This is an exciting time for Burnley FC Women, and I can’t wait to work closely with Alan Pace, the ALK Capital team and Neil Hart to once again build on the fantastic success we’ve had in recent seasons when football can fully resume.”