Craig Salmon's Soapbox: Football is the loser in men and women Magpies row

Chorley FC's historic home, Victory Park
Chorley FC's historic home, Victory Park

Craig Salmon looks at the fall-out of between Chorley FC and Chorley FC Women and believes the two clubs are ultimately the victims of the Magpies’ success last season

The unedifying spectacle of Chorley FC (CFC) and Chorley FC Women (CFCW) airing their dirty linen in public was both disappointing and, quite frankly, sad to see.

Without wishing to look like I am appearing to sit on the fence, from an outside perspective looking in, I have sympathy for both sides and their respective points of view.

Whoever holds the moral high ground in the argument, the simple fact is that the women will no longer play their home matches at the Magpies’ Victory Park – something which they have done since the summer of 2018 – and that is, in my opinion, a sad state of affairs for all concerned.

The two clubs are run as separate entities, but have enjoyed an affiliation since the women came under the much trumpeted ‘Magpie family’ brand.

But the link-up appears to be irreparably damaged after the men’s club told the women’s set-up that they would have to start paying for the use of Victory Park – £300 per match to be precise – a charge they cannot meet.

It is desperately disappointing for the women that they will no longer have the prestige – plus the benefits in terms of facilities – of playing at such an iconic and historic venue every other week.

Let’s not forget, Victory Park – built in 1919 and named to commemorate the end of the First World War – is arguably one of the most famous stadiums in non-league football and still retains its classic, traditional look. The ladies have also benefited in many other ways, not least the exposure which being attached to a name like CFC brings.

But I would hasten to add that this episode damages CFC’s brand.

A self-styled community establishment, who wish to be very much at the centre of the universe in terms of the town, the Magpies now have the unfortunate image of being the big, bad

father who has thrown his step-daughter out on to the street after a family disagreement.

Certainly I have sympathy for a self-funded club like CFCW when, out of the blue, they were told that they would have to fork out hundreds of pounds – midway through the season and which they would not have budgeted for – just to stage their home games.

It has to be remembered CFCW is not some tin-pot organisation. They are a serious club who play in the FA National Women’s League Division One, against opposition such Newcastle United, Leeds United and Barnsley to name just a few.

But let’s not forget CFC is also a self-funded club.

In my opinion, the two clubs are victims of circumstance and that circumstance is money – the root of all evil, I am afraid.

Jamie Vermiglio’s men lived the dream – and performed a minor miracle – last season by winning promotion.

Arguably one of the less well-funded clubs in the National League North last year, the division was, however, much more of a level playing field, made-up predominantly of part-time clubs.

But this season has been a totally different kettle of fish as the semi-professional Magpies try to compete in a league comprising mainly of full-time clubs – and they currently find themselves bottom of the table, staring down the barrel of relegation.

Magpies chairman Ken Wright spoke candidly last week to this newspaper of how keeping the club as a going concern at this level is a constant battle. There is no bottomless pit of money, no multi-millionaire backer.

The increased finances involved with the National League have eaten away at the club’s budget – but having worked so hard to gain promotion, why wouldn’t they try to sustain themselves at this level?

After all, what would be the point of competing in a division if a club ultimately did not want to win promotion because it would be frightened of being pushed to the brink of insolvency?

It appears, though, that success has left CFC battling to keep the wolf from the door and unfortunately CFCW have become one of several cost-cutting exercises at Victory Park this season.

Although we will never know, it certainly appears promotion has ultimately cost CFCW their home venue – and their position within the ‘Magpie family’. A sad state of affairs for football as a whole when a club’s success ultimately causes harm to the grassroots of the game.

Here’s hoping that the two clubs can find a solution so that both the men and women in black and white stripes will play at Victory Park.