London ladies footballers plead for LGFA to reconsider their championship removal

The London ladies football team say the decision leaves them "standing in the shadows" of their male counterparts.
London ladies footballers plead for LGFA to reconsider their championship removal
London lost last year's All-Ireland Junior semi-final to Fermanagh. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
London lost last year's All-Ireland Junior semi-final to Fermanagh. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The London ladies football team are protesting their removal from the All-Ireland championship.

The draws for the ladies football championships were made last night, with London, semi-finalists in each of the last four years, excluded from the junior draw due to coronavirus travel concerns.

The Exiles' men's teams remain entered in the GAA's All-Ireland SFC and Christy Ring Cup, prompting their ladies footballers to request the LGFA produce an alternative championship plan including them, as the competition is not due to begin until October.

"Given how much things can change in four months, was the decision to remove us from the Championship not taken too soon?" they ask in an open letter headed "#20x20 - Where is the #SeriousSupport?", referencing ladies football's advertising campaigns and the 20x20 promotion of women's sport.

"We are contacting you as a collective, regarding the LGFA's decision to remove us from participation in this year's 2020 Championship," reads their statement.

"Like everyone involved in the LGFA, GAA, and wider communities, we have been left desolate with the effect of the global pandemic. Nonetheless, the sport we have grown up with has thought us to be resilient and persevere, to live in hope, and to continue striving for our goals - as such we have remained hopeful, training hard since the beginning of the year with our respective clubs and county in readiness for the eagerly anticipated Championship season.

"Understandably, to take a risk-based approach is paramount when planning the fixtures, but given there is a significant amount of time before the Championship starts and how much things can change in four months (as we have seen) - was the decision to remove us from the Championship not taken too soon?

"In the year of #20x20 and #SeriousSupport, where we have been pushing women in sport to the fore, is this not a step backward on the Association's behalf? - leaving us to stand in the shadows of our counterparts who as of yet will still travel for October fixtures. With Championship not due to commence for another four months, was it not an abrupt decision to deny London Ladies participation so far in advance?

"London Men's Football and Hurling, as well as Warwickshire Hurling have all been given the benefit of time before being eliminated from their respective competitions.

"Is this not a perfect opportunity for the Association to show solidarity with all of its comrades and ensure equal treatment between men and women in sport? Is it not a perfect opportunity to lessen the disparity and embrace 20x20 in 2020 for all it stands for?

"We urge you to please, please reconsider the decision and allow for a set of Championship fixtures in which London Ladies participation is permitted while also keeping the current devised fixtures as a backup in the instance travel is not possible.

"Using this approach, alongside a cut-off point closer to Championship to re-evaluate circumstances, would be of huge benefit to not only the competitiveness of the Championship but also the mental and physical welfare of the players who have given years of their life to the Association.

"In the event that Government advice is unfavourable and travel is not permitted without issue, at least we can say we have stood together and provided a level playing field for our sport."

London men's football manager Michael Maher today told the Irish Examiner of the hugely frustrating situation he faces, being left "in limbo" over their Championship participation and facing the possibility of meeting Connacht title holders Roscommon, in Ireland, with little or no preparation time due to limited access to players.

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