Like all National League North sides, Derby County Ladies dream of playing in the WSL but recently the third tier side have been making great strides to turn that dream into reality. Partly due to the ‘One Club’ commitment, which brings increased support from the main club, the Ewe Rams are building a project that hopes to soon enter the professional level of women’s football.
The club are currently 6th in the FA Women’s National League North but first team manager Sam Griffiths said her side need to be ambitious, “We have got to be striving to play at the highest level we can.
“Whether that be this season, next season or whenever that has to be the clubs long term ambition to keep improving. Certainly, the minimum is to get into the championship.”
Derby County Ladies manager Sam Griffiths on the changes in women’s football and her WSL2 ambition.
How are they preparing for promotion?
Recently the club unveiled a new governance board to oversee the women’s team’s growth. The chairman of the board Nick Britten described their key task as “getting everything in place for promotion.”
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) October 17, 2019
The club believe this new board of directors will be able to provide the necessary structure and direction for promotion. Success on the field is not the only thing needed for promotion to the WSL or WSL2; the FA demand you have a support system surrounding the club and evidence of sustainable revenue.
Britten said: “If you want to [get promoted] you have got to have a really strong structure around the club and the FA want to see that before they let you enter the league. That was something Derby were lacking.
“So, there are two reasons why this new board has been constituted. One is, with a view to getting everything in place for promotion. That is what we want, we came very close last year, and we will give it another go this time.”
Derby came 3rd last season in the FA Women’s National League North.
He continued: “the second part of it is that the women’s game has had a huge injection of both interest and money into it in the last two years. We are having to compete with teams now who have a far stronger income than we have.
“Therefore, we have to look how we get better investment in, how we manage that investment and to make sure all the structures that run throughout the club, from the first team right down to the under 11s, are managed correctly and properly structured.”
The One Club commitment:
The announcement of the governance board follows on from the development in march 2018 that saw Derby County Ladies begin training at Moor Farm. This was the start of the ‘One Club’ commitment bringing the women’s side closer aligned with the main club.
Several members of the new board have connections with Derby County already and Britten felt this was an important factor, he said: “One of the key drivers for setting up this and establishing this board of governors is to bring the ladies club much closer to the main club. Under what we call the ‘One club’ banner we have now got the main club, the ladies club and also the community trust.
“Rather than have three separate organisations and three separate business, each doing their own thing, we are very keen to bring everything under the banner of the main club in order to present a united front across the city.
“We are men’s football, of course, but we are also women’s football and we also have an incredibly strong community arm. It was important that this board of governance had a link throughout from the men’s side and the community trust.”
Who else is on the board?
— Lauren Asquith (@laurenasquith) October 17, 2019
“We have Lauren Asquith the head of the community trust sitting on this board. We also have Steven pierce who is the chief executive of the main club, so it is very important that we have that common thread running through all three organisations.”
A member of the board who will be well known to Derby County fans is former Ram Michael Johnson. Now a club ambassador, he said:
“This is a really exciting time for Women’s Football, following the world cup, interest is huge so we really want to take advantage of that and push Derby County Ladies on.
This is an example of how committed Derby County is to bringing the whole club together, long may it continue.”
Excited to be part of the new board of directors for @DerbycountyLFC https://t.co/Zv8Vh9me76
— Michael Johnson (@jonsarno) October 17, 2019
Griffiths is pleased with the progress being made to bring the club together.
Before leading a session at Derby’s Moor Farm training ground, she said: “I was involved with the club when we literally had nothing to do with the men. But over the last couple of years it has improved massively. We very much feel a part of [the club] hence why we train here and the other perks that we get.”
She was keen to stress it was not just to do with money, “It is not all about finance either, it is not a case of just them writing a cheque and giving us money, it is those other things that do not cost them anything but really supports us moving forwards. Hopefully that does keep growing and growing.”
What else has the ‘One Club’ commitment done?
Part of the ‘One Club’ commitment has seen the ladies play games at Pride Park Stadium. A friendly game in May as well as September’s East Midlands Derby against fierce rivals Nottingham Forest have taken place at the 32,000 seater stadium.
The latter of those games attracted a club record 2,318 people.
The club used their main twitter account to promote the game in the build up.
Pride Park. 📍
@DerbyCountyLFC vs. Nottingham Forest. 🍿
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) September 7, 2019
The Ewe Rams still have a lot of work to do on the pitch with a rearranged fixture to come against Sunderland before a short winter break. Griffiths will be hoping the club can continue to develop and with more support from the main club we may soon see Derby County Ladies in the Women’s Super League.