Leyton Orient FC Dump FAWNL Side Leyton Orient WFC

Yesterday evening Leyton Orient FC dropped the bomb that they will are disassociating themselves with Leyton Orient Women’s FC. Yes, this is the same women’s side whose FA Cup third round tie against Chichester & Selsey recently attracted over four thousand viewers on the club’s own streaming service only a few weeks ago.

In their initial statement Orient FC stated, “As part of an all-encompassing strategy to develop female football in the area, the Club will be launching an Academy that in time will include age groups from under 9’s to under 18’s, mirroring the boys’ Academy.

“This will be supplemented by development centres, college programmes and will lead into a first-team that will compete initially at step six of the pyramid under the direct control of the Football Club.”

Director of Football, Martin Ling said: “This is an exciting time for the development of female football at Leyton Orient. We believe there is a huge opportunity in the local area to open doors for female players to become part of our new set-up and progress their own ambitions as footballers.

“We will be establishing key relationships with local professional and grassroots clubs and hope to make progression at all levels. Whilst we will be initially dropping down within the pyramid, for us there is a bigger long-term picture involving increased activity and opportunities for more players.”

During their six-year partnership, Orient WFC established itself within the fourth tier of the women's football pyramid and won a league and cup double in 2015/16.

In 2015 KIKK United were granted permission to use the Leyton Orient WFC name and now compete in tier four of the women’s pyramid under the leadership of its First Team Manager, Chris Brayford.

Orient WFC issued their own response claiming that at no point were Orient FC whiling to discuss the opportunity of using Orient WFC within this new structure. At this point, I see no other reason than it’s cheaper for them to support a side in the sixth tier than it is in the fourth tier.

In the statement shared by Orient WFC, they said, “Orient WFC offered them [Orient FC] the opportunity to take over our FAWNL license and manage the current structure internally. However, Orient FC declined to even consider or discuss this option.”

Adding that they were disappointed that this decision was made without any consultation. Leaving the club just nine days to secure its future due to an FA deadline on May 1st for the necessary approvals to register a renamed team at the same level of the league pyramid.

Photos: Sheena Booker

Orient has disputed many of these claims in a follow-up statement, “This proposed structure had been raised in meetings with Orient WFC previously but it was made clear to the Club that the management of Orient WFC would not accept Orient FC operating a development side in a lower position in the women’s pyramid for the 2020/21 season.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Club took its time to reconsider its position which has led us to the point where our board and management are in agreement that the name Orient should not be operated by a football team at any level over which the main club has no control.”

Adding, “The Club offered financial sponsorship to Orient WFC in August based on production of a budget for the forthcoming season. This was not received until February.”

...trying to move their women’s team down two divisions is purely a way of masking savings that they are looking to make and anything else they say is just spin and lies.

At this point it’s not clear what all the facts are and I imagine that both sides are guilty of making mistakes along the way. By trying to move their women’s team down two divisions is a move that is hard not to be seen as a money-saving exercise. At least AFC Fylde didn’t hide their motives when they temporarily disbanded their women’s side.

Orient FC have been disrespectful and have stitched up those in charge of Orient WFC, leaving them very little time to put everything in place to run a team next season.

Rea Laudat is currently on loan at Orient WFC from Charlton Athletic, she tweeted, “I am left utterly flabbergasted by the treatment the women’s team have received. I am tired! We are tired! Tired of being treated unequally! Tired of being treated as a quick fix to financial dismay may.” Laudat isn’t the only person involved who has voiced their sadness and anger at this move, understandably many are upset and have voiced their disapproval online, including some fans who have indicated that they will not renew their Orient FC season tickets.

This isn’t the last we’ll hear of this story with more likely to come out over the coming days, weeks and months. Orient WFC will be continuing under a new identity next season and Since 71 shall be throwing our full support behind them. With the newly appointed National League board now in place, hopefully they too can offer some much-needed support and guidance for the club.