Real Bedford Go On The Offensive After The Local Authority Refuses Women’s Football At The Club’s Ground

Photo: @RBFCLadies

Yesterday afternoon Read Bedford shared a lengthy statement attacking their local council and Mayor Tom Wootton and declared that the club are ceasing all negotiations with them regarding the renewal of their ground’s lease.

Chairman, Peter McCormack, describing, “I am also calling for Mayor Wootton’s immediate resignation due to his unacceptable handling of this matter, specifically with the effective ban he wants to place on women’s football.

“This decision follows the receipt of new lease terms last Friday that are not only unreasonable but discriminatory. The proposed terms include a significant, arbitrary increase in rent and oppressive rules that could force us out of our current ground within three years. Most disturbingly, the terms include clauses that ban women from playing football at our ground.”

The most disappointing element of the council’s terms was that they will terminate the lease if the ground is used for anything other than “senior men’s first-team football”, despite the council being fully aware of the women’s team playing at the ground.

Both the men’s and women’s teams have won their respective divisions, with the women’s team joining the FA Women’s National League next season. So you would think that the local authority would want to celebrate a high achieving football team within their area and work with them, not against them.

It’s outrageous to penalise female football in this way. To reach a reasonable standard in the Women’s pyramid, teams have to rely on men’s clubs sharing their grounds. It is politics of the 1960s to prevent women playing at a ground on the basis of their gender.

Real Bedford Ladies Chair, Jill Upton

There are always two sides to the story so I have approached Wotton’s team for comment. They told me, “The Council confirms that we have offered a new 15 year lease at McMullen Park to Real Bedford with a break clause at three years.

“This decision was made in accordance with our procedure for lease renewals. There was a drafting error which was rectified within half an hour of the initial issue being raised to include all football. An amended Heads of Terms has been sent.”

Presumably when they say “error” they are referring to the statement that only the men’s team will play there.

The statement went on to say “We know the importance of sports across our Borough – from benefits in health, fitness, and wellbeing. Approving this new lease we hope gives the club a great opportunity to grow and develop.”

While the club are not short or a bob or two after receiving investment via Winkelvoss Capital, owned by twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The Winklevoss’ have invested $4.5 million worth of bitcoin into the club. Irrespective of their wealth the local authority should be trying to build a work relationship because a successful football team is a huge benefit to the community.

Whether the local authority are purposely being difficult or greedy, we will never know. Many of you will be thinking that why don’t they buy the land given the investment they’ve received and to be honest, you’re probably correct. Hopefully there can be a resolution can be reached in the near future and that we see National League football at McMullen Park next season.

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