Lioness Beth Mead MBE and figureheads blast Thornaby FC's 'terrible' decision to drop female teams

A football club which dropped its entire female section has come under fire from sportswomen and figureheads.

Thornaby FC announced its decision to axe its women and girls’ teams on Sunday leaving the Teesside community in shock. Teesside Live has spoken to parents, managers and politicians about their thoughts on the decision.

The club, based at Teesdale Park on Acklam Road, said its future was in doubt, citing “very low” staffing levels, and progressing without the women was the only way to continue. England footballer Beth Mead MBE has offered her support to the club, whilst Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has stated that the “terrible decision needs reversing immediately”.

READ MORE: LIVE: 'Entire female section' of Thornaby FC axed as Lioness expresses 'disgust'

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Lioness Mead, who grew up near Whitby, posted on X: “Disgusted to see this decision, the women’s game is on the up but we still have committees making these horrible decisions. It’s not good enough, these young girls deserve better. I’d love to send the team a signed England shirt to keep them inspired.”

Beth Mead was awarded with the Top Goalscorer and Player of the Tournament awards after the final whistle of the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 final match
Beth Mead was awarded with the Top Goalscorer and Player of the Tournament awards after the final whistle of the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 final match -Credit:Getty Images

One of Britain's greatest Paralympic athletes, Tanni Grey-Thompson has asked: "Where do the girls go now?" Replying to Thornaby FC's statement on X, she commented: "This is so sad."

Grassroots Football Organisation has posted on X stating that "football is for EVERYONE" and "we stand with Thornaby FC Women." In a previous post the organisation said that it would "strongly urge the club to reconsider its position as a matter of urgency".

Ben Houchen as Teesside International Airport Business Park as he launched his election campaign for a third term as Tees Valley Mayor
Ben Houchen as Teesside International Airport Business Park as he launched his election campaign for a third term as Tees Valley Mayor -Credit:Gareth Lightfoot

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has released a statement on the "terrible decision taken by Thornaby FC to remove all girls and women's football teams from the club".

He said: “I am outraged by Thornaby Football Club’s decision - what on earth are they thinking? This mindset belongs in the 1970s and is not what our local area is about. As we head into a summer of Euros, we should be trying to expand the game not put barriers up. In recent years our Lionesses have inspired a whole new generation of girls and if my daughter wants to play football when she’s older, I expect for her to be treated the same and have the same opportunities as the boys her age.

“Football is for everyone, and I will be in touch with the club to tell them that this terrible decision needs reversing immediately.”

MP Andy McDonald
MP Andy McDonald -Credit:PA

Andy McDonald, Labour's candidate for the new Middlesbrough and Thornaby East constituency has commented that he is 'alarmed' at the 'wrong and regressive move'. He said: "I am alarmed to hear of this decision of the board of Thornaby FC to axe the women's and girls' teams - this is a wrong and regressive move. I will be seeking a meeting with club officials as soon as possible to discuss how we can work together to retain football for all in Thornaby.

"While we don't know all of the details of the issues at the club, the statements issued in the last 24 hours make clear this is not a decision that anyone wanted to make, but one which was felt necessary for the club to be able to continue. The lifeblood of amateur football clubs like Thornaby is the volunteers who give their time selflessly with only a love of the game and their community as motivation. Now as a community we need to come together to support the club and work out how we keep the teams for girls and women in the town.

"The women's game in this country has sky rocketed in recent years and we need to keep pushing it forward towards the day it is genuinely on a level pegging with the men's game. I will be doing all I can to assist and make sure that in Thornaby we go forwards not backwards."

South Tees Green Party have also released a statement. A spokesperson said: "South Tees Green Party are disappointed to hear about the winding down of Thornaby FC women’s and girls teams. Like the rest of the nation we have been inspired by the Lionesses recent performances including in the Euros, World Cup and games across the North East. We believe in every child being able to take part in sport and hope that a new team location can be found soon."

Thornaby FC
Thornaby FC -Credit:Ruby Hodgman

Kiran Fothergill, Conservative Party Candidate for Middlesbrough and Thornaby East, has described the move as a "devastating setback for our community and the progress we've made toward gender equality in sports". He said: "I am outraged by Thornaby FC's decision to cut the women's and girls' teams. This move is a devastating setback for our community and the progress we've made toward gender equality in sports.

"Over the years, we’ve witnessed incredible advancements in promoting inclusivity and providing young girls with platforms to excel in football. This decision threatens to undo all that hard work and progress. Thornaby FC must reconsider.

"Our female athletes deserve equal opportunities. Axing these teams not only impacts the players but also sends a disheartening message to young girls dreaming of playing football. We cannot allow this decision to erase the strides we've made in fostering a more inclusive and equitable sports environment."

Teesside Live has attempted to speak to Thornaby FC, which said in a Facebook statement: "The committee held an emergency meeting with all concerned and discussed the whole future of the club including the events over the last 12 months and after discussions it was felt the only way to continue was without the women and running with only the men’s team as before they came to the club also with the Staffing levels very low the day to day running of the club is in doubt."