Lioness Beth Mead today joined the growing backlash against a grassroots football club after officials dramatically voted to axe its women and girls’ teams but keep its boys’ side.

More than 100 females are now without a team after the controversial decision by Thornaby FC’s committee.

The Teesside-based club said it voted to scrap its female section at an emergency meeting over the weekend due to ‘low staffing issues’, insisting that moving forward ‘without the women’ was the only way to ensure its future. 

But the move has sparked a furious uproar among amateur and professional footballers alike.

Abbey Lyle, manager of the women’s first team, branded the decision ‘gender-based’ while England star Mead tweeted: ‘Disgusted to see this decision, the women’s game is on the up but we still have committees making these horrible decisions.

‘It’s not good enough, these young girls deserve better. I’d love to send the team a signed England shirt to keep them inspired @ThornabyFCWomen. If I can help with anything do reach out, us women need to stick together.’

Charity Women in Sport also labelled the committee’s decision ‘regressive’ and ‘profoundly wrong’. 

And in an extraordinary twist, club chairman Garry Morris slammed Thornaby’s decision. Revealing he had voted against the move with one other board member, he said: ‘I have made my feelings known to the board, have asked them to reconsider their decision, and also to consider their positions on the board as patrons and trustees of the football club.

‘We are empowered by the fans of the club to make the right decisions for the future of the club, and all those who show their unwavering support to both the male and female teams of all age groups deserve better. I firmly believe this decision made yesterday does not do that, and will be making this clear to the remaining members of the board.’

Thornaby Women said they were 'devestated' by the decision. Pictured: One of the women's teams

Thornaby Women said they were ‘devestated’ by the decision. Pictured: One of the women’s teams

Thornaby FC Women took to social media to share their disappointment at the decision

Thornaby FC Women took to social media to share their disappointment at the decision 

Thornaby FC announced this weekend that it will no longer be moving forward with its female teams. Pictured: One of the female teams

Thornaby FC announced this weekend that it will no longer be moving forward with its female teams. Pictured: One of the female teams 

In a statement to MailOnline, Women in Sport said: ‘The decision taken by Thornaby FC to withdraw support for the female section of the club from U7s through to the Women’s team is really sad and profoundly wrong. 

‘Our hearts go out to the women and girls who depend on the club for the joy they draw from football, the team spirit and the sense of belonging it creates. The decision is so regressive it is hard to understand how this has even happened in 2024.

They added: ‘We stand firmly behind the Chair of Thornaby FC and the other member who voted against closing the girls and women’s section and hope that others in the community will stand with them. 

‘This is a decision for the community and it’s one we hope is reversed because it shouldn’t matter where you live, girls should get the same chances as boys to play teamsport. 

‘In England, 22% fewer girls than boys get to play teamsport and yet they benefit just as much, it is cruel to deny girls and women football’s joy and lifelong benefits.

‘We can’t stand by and watch another generation of girls suffer from suffocating stereotyping and thoughtless exclusion from the liberating experience of running in the open air amongst friends and with purpose and passion.

‘The future of women’s football is bright and we will stand with all those working so hard to make sure no-one dims its light. It is time for Thornaby FC to make the right choice and be on the right side of history.’

Nikki Lucas, whose daughter Lily captains Thornaby’s successful under 15s team, said the team had just won a tournament when they heard.

She said: ‘We were all absolutely devastated, shocked and really deflated. The girls had spent the whole day at a tournament in Chester-le-Street where they absolutely smashed it, lifted a trophy and then came home to this news.’

Mrs Lucas, who lives in Middlesbrough, added: ‘We were all sat watching Soccer Aid, women and men playing together at Chelsea’s ground, and yet there’s clubs making decisions like this. It’s crazy that they have done this to them.’

Mrs Lucas said parents held fundraising events for the girls’ teams through the season to cover the cost of entering tournaments, and their subs paid for kits and training gear.

Young players would be heartened by the support that the girls’ and women’s teams have received since the news broke, she said.

‘It has been unbelievable, it has been quite emotional this morning, we knew people wouldn’t be happy, but we never imagined anything on this scale,’ she said. ‘The girls have seen the offers of help and it has boosted them up.

‘It shows how much the women’s game has progressed.’

The under 15s finished runners up in their league, won two cups and have been invited to represent the Teesside area in a national tournament this summer.

The women's section, writing on Facebook , said that the club's under 7s, 8s, 10s, 11s, 15s and women's teams would be lost. Pictured: One of the women's teams at Thornaby FC Women

The women’s section, writing on Facebook , said that the club’s under 7s, 8s, 10s, 11s, 15s and women’s teams would be lost. Pictured: One of the women’s teams at Thornaby FC Women 

The decision to remove the 'entire female section' has been dubbed a regressive move by Andy McDonald, Labour's candidate for the new Middlesbrough and Thornaby East constituency. Pictured: One of the girl's teams at Thornaby FC Women

The decision to remove the ‘entire female section’ has been dubbed a regressive move by Andy McDonald, Labour’s candidate for the new Middlesbrough and Thornaby East constituency. Pictured: One of the girl’s teams at Thornaby FC Women 

Speaking to MailOnline today, Ms Lyle, said the news had come as a massive ‘shock’ to players and parents.

She said: ‘We can’t understand why its happened. Women’s football has come so far in the last five or six years and we’ve almost taken a step back. 

‘But it just goes to show that at grassroots level, we’re really struggling. It’s still an issue unfortunately.’

She told MailOnline that for an outsider looking in, it ‘certainly looks like’ a gender-based decision.  

‘I’m trying to think of it as grassroots, football in general, and it’s not a male or female,’ Abbey said.

‘But if you look from the outside in and for six committee members who’ve decided this. It certainly looks like that.

‘It can only be one reason and they feel that men were both more important for the club.

Lioness and Arsenal forward Beth Mead (pictured) has said she is 'disgusted' by the decision

Lioness and Arsenal forward Beth Mead (pictured) has said she is ‘disgusted’ by the decision 

Tottenham Hotspur's Bethany England (pictured) said the 'fight for women to keep their place at the table is a never ending battle'. Pictured: Bethany has a shot on goal during the Adobe Women's FA Cup Final

Tottenham Hotspur’s Bethany England (pictured) said the ‘fight for women to keep their place at the table is a never ending battle’. Pictured: Bethany has a shot on goal during the Adobe Women’s FA Cup Final 

Beth Mead (pictured) has offered to give a signed England shirt to the young girls affected

Beth Mead (pictured) has offered to give a signed England shirt to the young girls affected

‘The young girls are at an age where they can recover from it because they’re so young they don’t realize what’s going on. They don’t see social media, the parents can take them to another club, and hopefully they’ll never see this again. 

‘But like the under 15s and 18-year-olds and the adults, they’re the people who are impacted because they can see everything that’s going on in the club. They can see the comments.. they are the ones who are suffering.’

Abbey added: A lot of my women play for their mental health. We’ve had them a long time. They stay with us, whatever club we move to. They move with us.’

In a statement published on social media yesterday, Thornaby FC said: ‘The committee held an emergency meeting with all concerned and discussed the whole future of the club including the events over the last 12 months.

‘After discussions it was felt the only way to continue was without the women and running with only the men’s team as before they came to the club also with the Staffing levels very low the day to day running of the club is in doubt.’

Abbey Lyle told MailOnline that for an outsider looking in, it 'certainly looks like' a gender-based decision. Pictured: One of the women's teams at Thornaby FC Women

Abbey Lyle told MailOnline that for an outsider looking in, it ‘certainly looks like’ a gender-based decision. Pictured: One of the women’s teams at Thornaby FC Women 

Abbey said the under 15s, 18-year-olds and adults are more so affected by the news. Pictured: One of the women's teams at Thornaby FC Women

Abbey said the under 15s, 18-year-olds and adults are more so affected by the news. Pictured: One of the women’s teams at Thornaby FC Women 

It comes just twelve months after the club, run by chief executive Trevor Wing, suffered an arson attack which left sections of the ground damaged in the blaze. 

Social media users have been left outraged by the decision by Thornaby FC, with many labelling it ‘appalling’, ‘discriminatory’ and ‘shameful’. 

One user wrote: ‘Disgraceful. Let me know if you want help finding a new home. Rise above them!’

Another person wrote: ‘Shame on the club. No excuse. Best wishes and hope that the whole set up is snapped up by another club.’ 

Bethany England, Lioness and forward for Tottenham Hotspur, said: ‘Saddened and disgusted to be reading this. 

Social media users have bene left outraged by the decision by Thornaby FC

Social media users have bene left outraged by the decision by Thornaby FC 

Some social media users offered a new home for the young girls who had been left without a club

Some social media users offered a new home for the young girls who had been left without a club

‘The fight for women to keep their place at the table is a never ending battle. This should not be happening, these women and girls deserve better! My thoughts go out to everyone involved at the club, players, staff and volunteers.’

Andy McDonald, Labour’s candidate for the new Middlesbrough and Thornaby East constituency, called the decision to axe the female teams a ‘wrong and regressive move’.

He said: ‘Now as a community we need to come together to support the club and work out how we keep the teams for girls and women in the town.

‘The women’s game in this country has sky rocketed in recent years and we need to keep pushing it forward towards the day it is genuinely on a level pegging with the men’s game.’

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, winner of 11 Paralympic golds, called the decision ‘so sad’, adding on social media: ‘Where do the girls go now @thornaby-fc’.

South Shields FC Women said: ‘Women’s football should be championed and we should be proud of the scene here in the north east. We’re all thinking of you, and we hope everybody connected with the club finds a way forward.’

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