What’s The Future For Wolves Women?

Photo: @WolvesWomen

Recently on the Wolves Women Pod, we have expressed our frustration on the lack of investment by the board following the increase in investment by Newcastle, Burnley and Nottingham Forest.  Putting some context around that, in 2021/22 we won the League (but lost the dreaded play-off game) and in 2022/23 we missed out on the League title on Goal Difference, but we finished this season in fourth place.

We have seen Newcastle go full-time, signing top-half Championship players on Women’s Super League wages, but we have also seen Forest go into a hybrid model which has seen some top players move there. If you believe the rumours in WhatsApp groups and in the stands, Newcastle has had a budget of £2M and Forest £1M.  In contrast, Wolves Women players are balancing full-time jobs whilst playing football, and of course, famously the Wolves Manager Macca was deployed Overseas for the RAF at the end of the 21/22 season, missing the play-off game to serve Queen and country.  The club pays registration fees (so no sponsorship needed) and, as we understand it, also pays the players’ expenses, but that is for covering travel costs, so it can be as low as circa £100/month depending on the individual player.

Therefore, how can Wolves Women compete and bring the players in that we do?  Two big reasons…

  1. Macca: his passion and aspirations for the club that he has is infectious. He has high standards and ambitions which players enjoy working towards.
  2. The wider package: Wolves Women train at the Wolves training ground and use the same facilities as the men’s team (last season Diego Costa talked about being in the gym with the Wolves Women players) including important medical facilities (recently Amber Hughes had a protective mask specially made for her and Merrick Will is being supported through her ACL recovery by the Club Medical Staff).

So, imagine what Macca could do with increased investment.

What do I see that investment looking like? Personally, noting the Fosun (the Chinese investment company that has owned Wolves since 2016) investment model in the men’s team I don’t expect them to do a Newcastle, as although every established Premier League club can afford to do it, that’s not their modus operandi.  However, I could see them following the Forest model and going for a Hybrid Model.  This would see a gradual progression to a full-time model and avoid the back of a “fag-packet” plan that Coventry United had for the 21/22 season where it all went wrong for them. 

To put this into context, this season Forest has 6 (out of 21) players full-time, while the rest have a day job as well. All players train five times a week with support for those working full-time, to balance training around work.

At Wolves I would like to see the coaching staff going full time, enabling them to focus on preparation and support the wider development of the girls set up at Wolves.  Then for new players coming in, these would all be full-time, obviously only replacing existing players where they strengthen/improve on them.  With the existing players, not every player will want/afford to become a full-time footballer. For example, part of the reason Beth Merrick left Coventry United back in the summer of 2021 was around the full-time pay being offered versus her teacher’s salary.  

So, I would look at targeting younger players for full-time contracts to build a basis for going forward.  Not all would sign, but this would also be a more sustainable model in the longer term.  This wouldn’t mean that if a player couldn’t afford to go full-time, they weren’t re-signed, but would mean that the club helped them develop a bespoke fitness and nutrition program that helped them keep up with the players that were training full-time. 

Picture: Ashley Griffiths (Grifftersworld Photography)

I would also like Wolves to make more use of “Dual Registration”/loans of Blues & Villa U21s.  This season we have had Layla Banaras on dual registration from Blues, but it’s clear looking at the likes of Burnley that they have exploited their links with Women’s Super League clubs to gain young talent.

Whilst I wouldn’t want as many (proportionally) as these clubs have, but a handful of talented young players to provide depth and raise the standards could be beneficial.  In addition, if we do get promoted these players might wish to move permanently to Wolves as a chance to gain regular football.

This should be done alongside developing more of our own players to a higher standard through the RTC/Development route. In recent years we have seen players come through the youth ranks to the first team via the Reserves such as Katie Johnson and Skye Owen.  As such we need to further develop and invest in the Reserves – unlike other clubs who have taken the retrograde step of disbanding their Reserves. 

Whilst competing in the FA WNL Reserves league they should be looking for regular friendlies against tier 4 , tier 5 and WSL/WC Academy teams to test and challenge whilst the FA WNL Reserves League is their bread & butter.

Currently, off the pitch, fan attendance is growing at the New Bucks Head so there is a need to build the Fan Experience.  So, whilst we don’t need to see Bristol’s bouncing apples every match, we should see a “pop up” shop at the ground and look to get the bar open before and after the game, so that people can come beforehand/stay after the game and build a community group – similar to the “Bristol Sports Bar”. 

This is why it was welcoming to see Wolves put on the men’s Black Country Derby before the women’s home game against Stoke. We should see the “AstroPay” (or equivalent) game being brought to the New Bucks Head as well as having it at Molineux.  With regards to the pop-up shop, it doesn’t have to be a purpose-built permanent structure, – it could be a glorified “portacabin” with a range of products that fans of Wolves Women would buy, such as Wolves shirts with printing available for player’s names and FAWNL patches.  

This should also include Wolves Women specific products, such as posters of Wolves Women players (e.g. Destiny Toussaint after she scored against Reading); T-shirts (e.g. a “Tammi George, Wolves Women number 7” t-shirt).  The club used some of the Telford Utd club shop ahead of the FA Cup game against Brighton and this was a positive move but didn’t have a huge range of products and didn’t have printing available for names etc. So, we should be looking for the next step up.  The production of more “Wolves Women” products will also be welcomed, commercially there is a market, as from personal experience I know that young girls who see their heroes will want the products, just as much as young boys want products with their heroes.

Photo: @WolvesWomen

In addition, at games, the club needs to work with Telford United about some of the match-day experiences. Catering at times seems to struggle with a few hundred people in attendance – both in terms of waiting times and variety and amount of food available.  Is there another kiosk that can be opened, or the bar, at half time so that people can get a hot drink in there?

Due to the demographics of the attendance (predominantly more families), the parking venue struggles to cope with the big days, so the club should look to work with Telford to implement the same parking that they have done for their recent play-off game.  Or noting Wolves’ commitment to sustainability they should start to run a shuttle service from Molineux to the New Bucks Head ahead of the match and after the game – perhaps using the WV1 bar as a meeting place ahead of the game (open it from 12.00 – till last shuttle bus leaves at 13.45)?

This coming season we will have far more local games than last season and therefore we need to learn from when Newcastle fans came and occupied the centre of the main stand. 

As such we should look to have a designated away area far more often and enforce it, providing space in the corner near to where the players come onto the pitch and the area of the main stand in the other corner.

This banks the Wolves fans up in the middle of the main stand closer together and therefore supporting the generation of more noise/home atmosphere.

The introduction of Wolves Women Season Tickets this season is welcomed Season Tickets and they should be promoted far earlier this season. The price of these tickets should remain the same to encourage far greater uptake, an increase in match day ticket prices could support this.

Currently, there is an argument that Wolves are underpricing their match day tickets at £6 on the day.  I would suggest that on the day tickets go up to £7.50 (whilst staying at £6 in advance), this is still reasonably priced but encourages fans to look to book up in advance. Attendance at cup games (bar showpiece games) is in general lower than league games even against the same opponents, as such I would look to reduce the ticket prices for these games (£6 on the day/£5 in advance) as this will likely encourage attendances at these games.

In the build up to games, there needs to be increased use of social media. Ahead of the FA Cup game against Brighton & WBA in the County Cup, there were pictures and film from training. Not in the detail/amount as the club currently does for the men but this was still great to see, especially the footage. As such it would be good if the minimum, we see next season is what we saw ahead of the WBA game, with bigger games getting more publicity/exposure and closer to what the men’s team currently get.

Picture: Ashley Griffiths/Grifftersworld Photography,

In addition, it will also be good to see formal press conferences ahead of the games to be formally offered to the press pack and increase proactive engagement by the club with the local media.

Furthermore, the club needs to do more with the data that it has from games. Every time someone buys a ticket at Molineux for a Wolves Women’s match, the club should be using that detail for direct marketing of subsequent Wolves Women’s matches at the New Bucks Head.  This will help increase the attendance at the New Bucks Head and as such help generate a bigger & better atmosphere. In addition, the club should work with Telford and use Telford’s mailing list for a regular push ahead of big games (e.g. Forest & Burnley).  

The club does a lot of good work with its radio commentary and has Wolves Women on the club podcasts throughout the week and this should continue. As more content is produced for wider social media there will be more content available for these podcasts, but it will also get a wider audience of what is going on easily.  The club’s “Radio” commentary this season has stepped up and it will be good to see this continue. I think that the club should look at a way to share a live visual broadcast of the game with overseas fans, this would balance off the wish to build match attendance, whilst growing the connection between the women’s team and the wider fan base. This could be limited to Overseas fans, so it is seen as a “reward” for overseas membership.

I hope that much of this can be achieved over the next 6 to 18 months and within the context of a Premier League club a lot of this investment is small beer.  It should also be noted that this investment doesn’t impact upon “Profit & Sustainability” Regulations for the men’s team and as such can generate broader revenue & interest if managed properly. 

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