Carly Telford: Notts County Ladies' liquidation's timing leaves players 'abandoned'

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Notts' demise 'heart-breaking' - Telford

England keeper Carly Telford says Notts County Ladies players feel abandoned by owner Alan Hardy after being liquidated on the eve of the new season.

Telford admits players were initially "wary" of being released as early as December, when taken over as part of Hardy's purchase of Notts' men's side.

"To leave it this late, we are all now left in a boat sinking quite quickly," she told BBC East Midlands Today.

Hardy says he "left no stone unturned" to try to save the club from folding.

A number of players had been housed in club-funded accommodation as part of their contracts with the Women's Super League One side, who finished sixth last season.

"No player will be evicted from the houses. If it takes three months, four months, five months, I will personally stand by their houses," Hardy added.

"I'm absolutely devastated and gutted that we have to say goodbye to the club, but I can't afford it."

Notts' players were told the WSL 1 club would cease to exist only moments before Friday's announcement and just two days before their first scheduled league game of 2017, away to Arsenal on Sunday.

A winding-up petition against the women's team had been adjourned twice, in February and March, with the English top-flight side owing debts to Revenue and Customs.

'We're jobless and we're homeless'

Notts and Wales midfielder Angharad James told BBC Radio Wales: "It's a devastating day. We were only told five minutes prior to it going out on social media. It is not a good day for women's football all round.

"We're jobless and we're homeless. As cliche as that sounds, it's the truth. We've got to deal with it now and hopefully things will come into place.

"We knew there were issues at the start of the season, with regards to finances at the women's side, but we'd been told that was all going to be sorted and that the majority had been sorted.

"From our perspective we knew nothing else. We had signed players; we bought new players in from other clubs. So everything looked fine.

"The majority of clubs will be full now and will have blown their budgets as well. We're hoping that some clubs might still have room for players. It might be that I don't have a club for six months and I'll have to find another job."

Notts County Ladies and Chelsea Ladies
Notts County faced Chelsea in the first Women's FA Cup final to be held at Wembley in 2015

Support from the PFA

A statement from the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) said: "The decision to put the club into the hands of a liquidator just days before the start of the season is clearly devastating for our members and the WSL 1 as a competition.

"The PFA has been in contact with our delegate at the club and provided information to our members on the impact of the club's actions on their contracts.

"We have also been in discussions with the FA and FAWSL to ensure that players can register with other clubs outside of the transfer window given the exceptional circumstances the players find themselves in due to no fault of their own.

"We will continue to provide support and guidance in an attempt to obtain the best possible outcome for our members."

A Football Association spokesperson said: "The FA is aware of the situation and is liaising with all involved parties.

"Our priority is the welfare of the players and we will work closely with them, the PFA and wider stakeholders to support them through this time."

England boss Mark Sampson has been in touch with Notts' England players to offer support, the BBC understands.

'I feel numb'

Telford, who has made seven senior appearances for England and is part of the squad for Euro 2017, added: "I'll have to sort something quickly because there is the Euros to prepare for and finding a club to keep playing football.

"I feel just a bit numb. At first I was in shock, it didn't seem real.

"Then you look around the room seeing people are upset, people crying, livelihoods ruined, people homeless and jobless."

Notts players have also been critical of Hardy for not meeting them in person on Friday to deliver the news of the club's liquidation himself.

"Time is a great thing, and I deeply regret not being able to be there," local businessman Hardy added to BBC East Midlands Today.

"Very rarely do my family take priority over football but they have been away for 10 days and unfortunately I had to collect them from Gatwick Airport at 10:00 BST this morning. It is unfortunate that it coincided with this day."

Carly Telford
Carly Telford and Notts County Ladies reached two domestic cup finals in 2015

Could the decision to fold have been made sooner?

Many of the players could now face difficulty finding new clubs so close to the new season, as other WSL 1 sides may well have allocated their budgets for the Spring Series.

WSL clubs are allowed to register up to 40 players in their squad for the campaign.

"To leave it so late and leave girls in the predicament he has is the hardest thing," Telford continued.

"We get his situation, he doesn't see it as a feasible business. But to leave it this late when the takeover was done so long ago, to now come to the conclusion two days before kick-off that he doesn't want to do it anymore is heartbreaking.

"He could have released us, got rid of us when the takeover was happening. We were wary of not being kept on then. We could have gone in the transfer window, found another club and settled."

Hardy responded: "We were having conversations and meeting with the big universities to see what sponsorship and support they could give us.

"I was optimistic as long as I could be and I always hoped something would be around the corner, but eventually I arrived at dead ends everywhere and that was a very sad day for me."

Analysis

BBC broadcaster Jacqui Oatley told BBC Radio Nottingham:

"I'm not surprised that it's happening but I'm very surprised by the timing. You don't expect it to happen two days before the start of the Spring Series.

"I know that most parties involved thought they would at least be OK for this season. It is a very big shock for everybody.

"Just when you feel (the women's game) is making progress, it's a huge shock."

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