All week here at 7500 to Holte, we’ll be featuring news, interviews, writing, and podcasting about the Aston Villa Ladies team. On Sunday, they get to play their first Super League 2 match at Villa Park, and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to highlight the squad.
Villa Ladies had a rather strange start.
They were actually named Solihull FC and weren’t even fully associated with the Lion Rampant of Aston Villa until 1996.
The Aston Villa Ladies side we know today started life as Solihull FC back in 1973, before taking a small association with Aston Villa when they changed their name to the rather exotic ‘Villa Aztecs’ in 1989 after responding to a request from Villa for help in producing a women’s team. One record of the Aztecs comes from a report on the women’s game produced by The Independent who note the presence of the Villa Aztecs as a ‘big and uncompromising side’.
“They don't get the glory - and certainly not the money - but they love the game just as much as the men do.” - Pete Davies, writing in 1995.
It would take a further seven years for the Aztecs to change their name and become formally recognised (and licensed) as the Ladies side of Aston Villa FC in 1996. Furthermore it wasn’t until 2004 that the Villans took charge of the Villa Ladies side. Eleven years after the Aztecs adopted the full name of Aston Villa, they finally became bankrolled by the club in 2007.
The difference in finances between the male and female worlds of football are astounding. Funding of around £20,000 a year was recorded for AVLFC back in 2008, which is probably a week’s wages for Gary Gardner in 2016. This has likely changed now, but thanks to insight provided by Robert’s interview with Joe Hunt (AVLFC manager), it’s still clear that funding is relatively low as training time for the team amounts to under ten hours a week.
Aston Villa Ladies do have the benefit of training at Villa’s Staffordshire basecamp, Bodymoor Heath, but play their games at Sutton Coldfield Town’s Coles Lane ground giving the team more of a Staffordshire base than Villa’s inner-city stadium.
In terms of success the Villa Aztecs, reached the 1995 League Cup Final but lost 2–0 to Wimbledon FC. However on 5 May 2013, the club had its greatest achievement thus far by claiming the Women’s Premier League Cup, beating Leeds United Ladies on penalties. Villa Ladies also claimed the Premier League Northern Division just before the turn of the century in 1999 and returned to grab the title in 2003
The latest stage? Aston Villa Ladies were admitted into WSL2 for its inaugural season in 2014. It’s a long way to the top, but games at the highest level of the women’s game are televised by BT Sport and the parent organisations of women’s teams across the country seem to be taking their offspring a lot more seriously in the 21st century, but there’s still a long way to go.
If you want to get the chance to watch the AVLFC squad, you can see them at Villa Park this Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets can be found here, and most are only £5. If you’re in the over-65 or under-18 groups, your ticket is only £1! Go out and support the ladies in the last match of their season!