Brighton & Hove Albion are making a considerable long-term investment in the women’s game, as part of a £25m phase of improvements to the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, in their latest commitment to their women and girls programme.
The impressive development plans at the club’s training complex include a new hub building for the women’s and girls’ teams, with work on the state-of-the-art facility set to begin this month.
Currently the women’s first team train on pitches at Sussex University close to the club’s American Express Community Stadium, and have a modern gym and medical facilities inside the stadium — but Albion’s hierarchy still want to continually improve facilities for their women’s team.
Albion director and women’s chair Michelle Walder said, “We have a one club mantra here, and while the team has brilliant training facilities at the Amex and Sussex University the investment will bring all the club’s teams together at the training complex on one site, in a world-class facility.
“Before the team went full-time, we were able to share the men’s facilities at Lancing, and use them in the evenings — but the move to full-time training for the women’s first team meant daytime training and we had to rethink, as we didn’t have the space.
“The new hub will provide that space and construction work on the new facility begins later this month, having been through the design and planning stage.”
Albion — under the guidance of chairman Tony Bloom — have always thought long-term across all areas of the club and ahead of the new season unveiled a bold new vision for the future, which included an ambition for the women‘s first team to establish themselves as a regular top-four finisher in the FA’s Women’s Super League.
Walder added, “We know the bar is a high one, but what’s the point in setting an easily achievable aim? We want to progress across all areas, and we believe this a realistic goal. We’ve not put a time limit on it, and it’s no different to our ambition for the men’s first team to establish themselves as a top-ten side in the Premier League.”
Albion have already demonstrated a commitment to the future of women’s football as one of 11 clubs hosting a top-tier Football Association Regional Talent Centre — which provides a platform to increase the number of elite women’s players.
As part of The FA’s Women’s Football Weekend, Hope Powell’s Albion side will play Birmingham City at the Amex — and while it has become a recent phenomenon across the WSL to play in main stadia, it’s the fourth time in the last five seasons the stadium has hosted the club’s women’s team.
“It’s not new to us,” continues Walder. “We started in 2015 and since then have had games against Charlton, Sheffield and Arsenal at the Amex — now we look forward to welcoming Birmingham. The Arsenal game set the record crowd for the WSL at the end of last season, while we’ve also had some big crowds in for England internationals, it would be fantastic to see another big crowd on Sunday.”
Albion hope the blank Premier League weekend will encourage fans to get their football fix by heading to the Amex for the 2pmkick-off, while also tapping into the surge in interest in the women’s game on the back of last summer’s World Cup.
The club has already seen season-ticket holder numbers more than double at their Crawley base, and more than one thousand turned out for their penalty shoot-out win over WSL champions Arsenal the weekend before last.
Powell said, “This game is part of the club’s ambitions to increase the women’s fanbase. The club has been fantastic in terms of the changes they’ve made with the infrastructure and our new build at the training ground.
“They’ve invested a lot of money to ensure this game is sustainable. We’re in a building phase at the moment, but the club and board are so supportive.
“The club is true to its word, and value the women’s game. It’s quite evident that anyone who works in this environment, can see it’s a nice club to be at. Tony Bloom has been fantastic and we’ve got to repay that with the right results on the pitch.”
Powell will be encouraged in her team’s efforts to achieve that by the best display of the season in that last outing, and they will be hoping to replicate the performance and better the result this Sunday against Birmingham City.
“Our preparation heading into the Arsenal game was very good, and we’ll need to do exactly the same again this week. We played with confidence last time out, and hopefully we can take that into Sunday.
“We feel really privileged to be able to play at the Amex again, and we want as much support as possible from the fans. Our players are lifted by the support. This is an exciting game for everybody, and we want all the fans to come along, enjoy the game and give the girls a big boost.”
Tickets for our Barclays FA Women’s Super League match against Birmingham City on Sun 17 Nov at the Amex are available to buy at a price of £3 for adults and £1 for over-65s and under-18s.
All WSL season ticket holders can claim up to four free additional tickets for the match along with their own, and Amex season-ticket holders can claim two free tickets.