Cheltenham Town Ladies have faced another disruption to their season following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a four-week England lockdown on October 31.
The first lockdown introduced in March, affected the Ladies preparations ahead of the 2020/21 season with them only being able to train in small groups observing social distancing as they eventually saw their first home game postponed.
The second National lockdown came into effect on November 5 and the uncertainty of resuming back into training and playing matches has been one of the many unanswered questions.
Their FA Cup away fixture to Exeter City Women has also been postponed to a later date.
“We’ve not been given an awful lot of information,” said the Robinesses media manager, Daniel Lodge.
He explained that despite the break in women’s football, ‘it’s still business as usual.’
“We’re still in this position where we still have sponsorships that we need to honour so we need to advertise those sponsors and promote what they do and promote their business to our supporters and we still need to bring in sponsors.
“It’s the actual playing, the girls getting out there on a Tuesday and Thursday night and working hard on a Sunday to pick up their result, that’s taken a bit of a back seat at the minute.”
Unfortunately, the club’s finances has also seen a decline in recent weeks with the lack of gate receipts in their last couple of games prior to lockdown.
“In terms of club finances, we’re still gonna need to cover some of our expenses, in terms of training, booking facilities, booking matchdays, especially with the likes of Tewkesbury School behind closed-doors where we can’t bring fans in that could potentially cover a little bit of that cost, unfortunately that’s been taken away.”
With little information provided by the FA on the women’s football postponement of when it is expected to return, the club has implemented one-to-one Zoom sessions with the players to work on individual fitness tasks.
Lodge added: “At the minute we don’t really know, we’d like to, to be completely honest we’d love to be going back to where we left off and bringing fans in and taking contact details and scanning bar codes and hand-gel dispensers in every corner which is nice, we’d love to go back to that.
“The training sessions have been completely stopped, it’s an outright suspension, it’s not just games like it was in pre-season where up until certain point we couldn’t play games but we could do small sessions in small groups, it’s an outright ban so it’s up until the 2nd of December, the same as the national lockdown and it’s a case of after that, we see where we are.
“The players have been given things to work on and have been having regular Zoom meetings one-on-one between coaches and players and groups, if you Zoom socials which is what we had during the previous lockdown as well which actually was really helpful in keeping people going so that was fantastic, so it’s very much doing what we can until we know really.”
Debates have sparked over the weekend as non-league teams below Gloucestershire’s side who are in the fourth tier, have been permitted to play in the EFL trophy.
Lodge added: “I don’t know too much about it but I definitely don’t understand why it’s one over the other. It completely undermines the fantastic work being done to raise the profile of the women’s game.”
Although the growth of women’s football continues on the rise, labelling of girls football academies as a non-elite club has got to change following the sport ban for four weeks.
Manchester United Women’s boss, Casey Stoney said: “I class our regional talent club and academy as ‘elite’, because they’re at Manchester United.
“That’s one of the things that has got to change. It’s really disappointing, but it’s the classification of the academies.”
With everybody around Gloucestershire hopeful that the season can resume in mid-December so local supporters can be welcomed back in, Lodge continues to look forward to stepping on the pitch to prepare for a matchday.
“If we can make it happen safely then let’s do it, whether or not it will be deemed safe, we just don’t know but we can all sit and hope that it is.”