The grassroots football community is in uproar after Thornaby FC made the controversial decision to axe its women’s team, leaving over 100 female players without a club.

The Teesdale Park club made the announcement on Sunday evening after an emergency meeting.

The decision - which cited issues with staffing levels - was met with outrage across social media, with people slamming the move as an “absolute disgrace.”

Abbey Lyle, who has been Thornaby FC Women's first team manager for the last year alongside Claire Streeter, told The Northern Echo that it has been a “crazy” 24 hours after the news broke. 

Claire Streeter and Abbey Lyle, from Thornaby FC Women (Image: KAREN RODHAM)

The Billingham local said: “It’s blown up - and rightly so. Honestly, it has restored my faith, it’s unbelievable. It just shows how far it has come for women’s football.” 

Abbey first found out the news following the emergency meeting, where the team was solely represented by secretary Rachel Stonehouse. 

“It was almost like you laugh - surely it can’t be true,” Abbey said, recalling the moment she heard of the decision. “We’ve just watched the women at St James’ Park, and at Wembley… it was a shock.”

Abbey said that money was not an issued for the club, which has “loads of sponsors” and funds itself. In terms of staffing concerns, she said: “It would only take us to ask for volunteers and I’m sure that we could’ve done that.”

Thankfully, some light has come from the decision through the unwavering support of the grassroots football community across the North East. 

Over 100 Thornaby FC Women players have been left without a club (Image: KAREN RODHAM)

Abbey continued: “We’ve had offers all the way from Belmont in County Durham to the other end of the country. Every North East football club is reaching out.” 

Paralympic athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson was one of several notable figures who threw their support behind the team after the news broke.

She spoke to The Northern Echo on Monday morning - describing the ordeal as “so sad.” She said: “It does just seem unfair. 

“Someone said they struggled with finances and that nobody was watching the games - it seems unfair to just cut all women’s teams and basically throw them out. 

“When women’s sport is on such a rise, it seems quite discriminatory to chuck all the girls out. I know a lot of clubs in different sports are struggling but it just seems really sad.”

Also backing the club was Arsenal and England forward Beth Mead, who said she was “disgusted” to hear the news and offered to send the club a signed England shirt to keep the players inspired. 

Andy McDonald, Labour's candidate for the new Middlesbrough and Thornaby East constituency, also weighed in, adding that he was “alarmed” to hear of the “wrong and regressive” move. 

He said: “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.”

He added that the community needs to “come together to support the club and work out how we keep the teams for girls and women in the town” and added he will be doing “all I can to assist and make sure that in Thornaby we go forwards not backwards.”

Meanwhile Kiran Fothergill, Conservative Party candidate, said he was "outraged" by the decision and called it a "devastating setback" for the community.

He explained: "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."


Team axe ‘only way to continue’ - Thornaby FC

An initial post on Facebook from Thornaby FC said: “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.

“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.”

Thornaby FC chairman Garry Morris made clear that he did not support the decision.

A statement said: “The decision to withdraw support for the women’s Team is one that I do not agree with, and along with another member of the committee, voted against it at yesterday’s emergency meeting.

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“I have made my feelings known to the board, have asked them to reconsider their decision, and also to consider their positions on the board as patrons and trustees of the football club.

“We are empowered by the fans of the club to make the right decisions for the future of the club, and all those who show their unwavering support to both the male and female teams of all age groups deserve better. I firmly believe this decision made yesterday does not do that, and will be making this clear to the remaining members of the board.”

Thornaby FC declined to comment when contacted by The Echo.