Clint Lancaster, Watford women’s team head coach, admits that being labelled as a grassroots team in a non-elite league is a tough pill to swallow.
Clint Lancaster Not Happy With Grassroots Tag
Clint Lancaster Hasn’t Managed Since Watford’s Last Game on December 13
The Hornets ply their trade in the Women’s National League South – the third tier of the game – with only the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship classed as ‘elite’ in this country.
Lancaster’s side have not played a game since before the current English lockdown on December 13 but says that the infrastructure and support in place for his players is not befitting of grassroots status.
In a virtual press conference organised by Next Gen Sports Solutions earlier this week, he said: “That’s a very hard thing for us to take as both players and coaches. We’ve got Helen Ward playing for us who is the record goalscorer for Wales and is still playing internationally.
“We also have a number of other players that have featured internationally too. There is also brilliant support from the men’s side of the club, as we can use all the same facilities. So that’s why it hurts when you’re classed as ‘grassroots’.
“There is a great relationship there and I would say we’re in a fortunate position in the sense that our set-up means we’re probably a Championship club competing in the National League.”
Watford Could Have Carried on Playing
Lancaster admits that Watford could have implemented the necessary safety procedures to continue playing during lockdown, but others playing at the same level may have struggled to do so.
“We could’ve [carried on playing], but in the National League there’s quite a big divide and a number of teams wouldn’t have been able to continue playing.
“It is frustrating to see the Championship continue but it is what it is and we have just had to accept that.
“What’s also frustrating is that it gives Championship clubs the chance to look at my players and it can be quite difficult to keep hold of them.
“I don’t really know what The FA can do to fix this divide. Do they grow the Championship or change how they run the National League and turn that semi-pro? I don’t know.
“What I do know is that there a lot of players and coaches in the National League that don’t appreciate being labelled in the grassroots category.”
Lancaster Welcomes a Playoff System
Watford currently sit top of the Women’s National League South, but promotion would not be guaranteed even if they finish first. They would need to beat the winners of the northern division to secure a place in the Championship.
Lancaster welcomes the idea of implementing a play-off system to give more teams a chance to win promotion but stressed that clubs fulfilling strict licensing criteria will come into play.
“A playoff system would definitely be interesting and quite exciting too, but what you have to bear in mind is that promoted clubs have to meet new requirements to play in a higher division.
“So, you could have a team that wins our league, they don’t meet the requirements and then the opportunity for promotion is presented to the team that finishes second.
“You really need to have an idea of which teams could meet the off-field requirements of playing in the Championship before the season starts.
“But I do think that a playoff system would be exciting for the women’s game and something that I’d definitely support.”