Impetus editor Ben Gilby speaks to Cardiff City Ladies’ media officer Lewis Rogers. Our conversation began with Lewis explaining the journey that women’s football has taken at Cardiff City Ladies in recent times: “I think the best word would be ‘challenging.’ Many people obviously relate us with the Men’s team but the club were only ever affiliated for a couple of years with the men. That might surprise a few people but although the club has undergone a few name changes in the past, we still have been predominately independent and run on volunteers.”
He then highlighted the huge growth that the side have undertaken recently: “It’s crazy to even think that Cardiff City, only two seasons ago, were making camp at the bottom of the National League South table but the changes that have come into the club have made us an incredibly competitive team. To then finish second last season shows the massive strides the staff and squad has taken. Even our FA Cup run a few seasons back was huge for the promotion of our club and since then it’s only ever grown. We’re an extremely ambitious club with a talented, young squad who are equally passionate about playing for Cardiff City Ladies. This stretches down into our junior sides who we instil a ‘hunger’ for trophies and a passion for playing football.”
The Cardiff City Ladies media officer then cast his eye over the FA Women’s National League Division One South. “As a division, it is so very strong. Over the last few years there have been huge strides by the FA to make all divisions in the Women’s game competitive and it’s definitely evident that this is the case. From top to bottom, there’s a belief that anyone can beat anyone. I hate to use that cliché but it’s so true in this case. More women are signing up to the ‘game’ and this is beginning to show as we go throughout all the tiers of the league.”
In terms of progress for this season, Lewis said: “It’s important that we progress. Last season we achieved an excellent second placed finish but the level of competition has only got better this year and we love to compete with the best players and the best teams. Who wouldn’t!? Unfortunately, we couldn’t achieve a sizeable cup run this year but there is no shame losing to a fantastic Southampton side. Our focus needs to be pushing our younger players to achieve more and for our more senior players to take us to a new level. I can’t emphasise how excited we are about this current squad.”
Whilst as a Wales based club, Cardiff City Ladies play in the English women’s pyramid system, I asked Rogers to assess the standard of the Welsh women’s club game and to highlight the relationships that City have with Welsh club sides.
“It’s getting so exciting. I know many people in the Welsh League might think this may be a bit of lip service but it’s true. The level of football is so exciting and passionate and we are so proud of all these teams for the promotion of Welsh women’s football. We still own the record of winning the FAW Cup 11 times but we’re seeing so many fantastic sides get to the level that they may even overtake that longstanding record. It’s great to see that a lot of the sides in the Welsh Premier have excellent academy/junior systems and we have the pleasure of playing them on a weekly basis. We obviously have our own reasons for leaving the Welsh League system but we can honestly say that we’d love to play against many of these teams.”
I then turned to the huge growth in media coverage for the women’s game starting with last summer’s World Cup and how this has been reflected back in the Welsh capital, Rogers felt: “It broadcast to the world what many women’s football supporters have known for a number of years and that is the level of quality football being played. That’s all football supporters really want, quality football. Who doesn’t want to see a speedy winger ripping through the defence? Or a strong challenge from the centre back. I’d argue that the level of quality and interest from many of our young girls has always been there but finally, women’s football is finally getting the recognition it rightfully deserves. The level of interest has been huge in all aspects but we can’t rely on the popularity of the World Cup to carry us through. There needs be a massive push from all clubs around the world from senior players to our junior teams to really make its mark.
With things moving undoubtedly in a positive direction at Cardiff City Ladies, I asked Lewis Rogers what he feels the biggest challenges are that the club face at present. For him, “the number of high-quality teams that have had to cease existing is absolutely abhorrent. I feel for the staff, the girls and, more importantly, the supporters in these situations and something needs to be done about it but we get to the stage where young girls no longer have an option to play for their local team. That would be a travesty. As for our club specifically, only we (the staff and players) can deal with the challenges on the pitch and I hope that continues as it has done so in the last few years. Progression is a massive factor. Sadly, we live in an era of football that states that if you’re not going forwards then you’re stepping back. It’s vital that progression is at the forefront of everybody’s minds when making decisions. I’m so positive that the league and the FA have this in mind.”
Linked to this, I asked Lewis if he thought that with more money gradually trickling into women’s football from the richer men’s club parent sides, whether the era of smaller clubs reaching the top levels was over. He feels: “I mentioned that finances previously and it will always be a stumbling block for most. There is no doubt that many will follow the pattern of ‘to make money you have to spend money’ and it’s clear why. We’ve heard of many clubs like Yeovil that have been threatened with administration when reaching the top league and it’s hard to match the ‘big powers’ but many sides are gunning for the ‘top teams’ and I fully believe that will happen in the not too distant future. Fortunately, the staff at Yeovil have done an amazing job of rebuilding that team and full credit goes to them.”
Finally, we looked ahead to the future and where the Cardiff City Ladies media officer thought his club and the game in general could be: More generally, improvements have been made year on year and, hopefully, this is something that will continue. Many coaches and players will tell you that they hope that in the future that many girls will be wearing club shirts with their favourite Women’s players on the back. We need to set the standard high. As for Cardiff City Ladies, we would love to be a club that promotes our most talented Welsh footballers and provides players that afford the opportunity to play for the National Team and go onto major tournaments with success.”