Following the revamp of Women's Football in England, Lincoln Ladies have announced that they will play as Notts County from 2014.

Ray Trew, owner of Notts County and Lincoln Ladies has taken the decision to merge his two investments, upsetting many supporters of the Lincoln side. 

Despite assurances of mutual gain, fans of the club seem sure that the move represents a continued reliance on the men's game that women's football is desperately trying to shake. 

Supporters of the Lady Imps described the move on Facebook as "the worst news ever" and "a joke".

Tom Johnstone, spokesman for the Lincoln Ladies Supporters' Club, said: "We're disgusted, we're not going to have a club, a lot of people are saying we're the new MK Dons. 

"The club was great for Lincolnshire. It's not exactly a hotbed for international sport but we had the Great Britain captain and three other England internationals. We've all just bought the new kit, for ourselves and our children. We've spent a lot of money."

Founded in 1995, Trew bought Lincoln Ladies ten years later. In 2008 and with the decline of Lincoln City, the outfit took the bold decision to break away from the men's side and establish the club as a separate entity. 

The team then rose through the ranks of the Women's Super League; signing England captain Casey Stoney in 2010. The club finished fourth in 2011 and fifth in 2012.

Stoney, like many of the Lincoln fans, has felt in the past that women's football is unfairly dictated by the men's game. Whilst not speaking out on this occasion, in 2007, when Charlton Athletic's relegation saw the club dispand its women's side, Stoney was outspoken with her views.

She said: "I'm disgusted with the club - the men get relegated and we get punished. The club's only trophies in recent years have been won by the women's team - and in the last four seasons we were the only side apart from Arsenal to win major honours. 

"Seven weeks  ago we played in front of a record crowd at the FA Cup final - that's now our last match and I'm totally gutted for everyone involved on the women's side. I just hope that what has happened to us doesn't reverberate around the women's game - otherwise it'll be in serious trouble."

However, it seems that the recent restructure of the Women's Super League, intended to promote the women's game, has forced the side into the rebranding partnership at Meadow Lane.

In a statement released on July 18, club officials attempted to explain the move and deliver some assurances to fans, explaining that merging with a men's side was necessary if the side was to enter the bidding process for the WSL1.

Megan Harris, a midfielder at the club, told BBC Radio Lincolnshire: "Liverpool are sitting top of the Super League because they had a massive cash injection and the men's team are backing them. If you want to compete at the highest level then that's what you have to do."

The statement added: "The players will have access to the kind of facilities and resources the Notts squad have. This was another driving factor. Together with the benefits for the playing staff, there are numerous off-field advantages also, with the ladie's side able to tap into the well-established commercial, media and marketing facilities available at Notts County."

The club also made promises to supporters that affordability and accessibility would be protected, the new plans set to see the the side play 35 miles away from their current home ground.

Former manager Glenn Harris said: "Emotionally its a very sad time for Lincoln, but people have to be aware that it is money that's driving women's football like the men's game."

Notts County will join Arsenal Ladies, Everton Ladies, Manchester City, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Chelsea Ladies and Liverpool Ladies in the WSL1. 

All eight clubs promised a £70,000 grant from the governing body that they will have to match. The ten teams to play in the newly created WSL2 will receive a £50,000 donation and the opportunity of promotion next season. 

The Football Association hope that the injection of money and promise of competition into the sport will help to grow the women's game.


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