Norfolk FA forced into U-turn after snubbing Norwich's Carrow Road as venue for women's cup final

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Norfolk FA forced into U-turn after being accused of ‘cruelly unfair’ discrimination for choosing to host the men’s County Cup final at Norwich City’s Carrow Road and the women’s final at a local football development centre with limited seating

  • Norfolk FA have been forced into a U-turn after being accused of discrimination
  • The men’s County Cup final was ‘prioritised’ by being planned for Carrow Road
  • Meanwhile, the women’s showpiece was set for a facility with limited seating
  • Both will now be at Carrow Road after Sportsmail contacted the organisation
  • The snub of the women’s game had been labelled ‘cruelly unfair’ by one player

The Norfolk FA have been forced into a U-turn after they were accused of discrimination for choosing to host the men’s County Cup final at Norwich City’s Carrow Road and the women’s final at their football development centre.

Mulbarton Belles Ladies and Wymondham Ladies were due to contest the women’s final at Norfolk’s FDC football facility, where there is only limited seating, on Friday, May 20. 

But after Sportsmail contacted the governing body, they have since announced the game will be played at Carrow Road on Wednesday, May 25.

Originally it was only the men's cup final that was scheduled to be played at Carrow Road

Originally it was only the men’s cup final that was scheduled to be played at Carrow Road

A statement read: ‘Norfolk FA are delighted to announce that the Harrod Sport Women’s Cup final will take place at Carrow Road on Wednesday 25 May 2022. 

‘After continuing to work with Norfolk’s biggest Club, Norwich City FC, an agreement is now in place for both the Ashtons Legal Senior Cup and the Harrod Sport Women’s Cup to take place at Carrow Road. 

‘Further details relating to the arrangements of both the Norfolk County Cup Finals taking place at the home of Norwich City will be communicated in due course.’

When Sportsmail contacted Norfolk FA on Friday morning, we were told they had originally only been given one slot by Norwich. As a result, they chose the men’s Senior Cup final for the Premier League ground because it is their ‘most prestigious competition’. However, it is understood that multiple pitch hire slots had always been available at Carrow Road.

After severe local backlash, the women's cup final will also be played at Norwich's ground

After severe local backlash, the women’s cup final will also be played at Norwich’s ground

The previous decision to snub the women’s final has was met with heavy criticism. Chairman of Mulbarton FC, Duane James, said the decision ‘smacked of discrimination’.

‘Both the men and women County Cup finals are equal, one isn’t more important than the other,’ James told Sportsmail

‘When Norfolk FA released a statement saying the men’s final is being played at the top venue, that makes the women feel second class again.

‘We see it that the FA have made the decision that men’s football is more prestigious than Ladies football. It smacks of discrimination to me.

‘The feeling amongst the women’s teams in the county is that they aren’t important enough to merit a top venue.

Being able to play at Carrow Road is 'the pinnacle', says Mulbarton Belles player Laura Hedtke

Being able to play at Carrow Road is ‘the pinnacle’, says Mulbarton Belles player Laura Hedtke

‘Nearly all grassroots team have women’s and girls teams who love coming and watching the Ladies matches. Why shouldn’t they have their day out at a great local venue?’

Players from Mulbarton, who beat Norwich City in the semi-final, were left especially disappointed by the decision.

‘As a lifelong Norwich fan and a season ticket holder for over 15 years it has always been a dream to play at Carrow Road,’ Mulbarton player Laura Hedtke told Sportsmail.

‘For those of us who are not lucky enough to make it in the professional game getting to a County Cup final is the peak of local grassroots football and to be able to play at Carrow Road really is the pinnacle.

‘Every team that has worked so hard to get to a final should be rewarded. It seems cruelly unfair that one competition should be picked out and deemed superior to others. 

‘The Norfolk Senior Cup was the chosen game, stating it is the most prestigious Cup. The Norfolk Ladies Cup, the biggest and most prestigious competition available to Ladies, was deemed lesser than its male counterpart. How will we ever get equality when those in power at Norfolk FA still prioritise the men’s game at every opportunity?

‘All the noise locally and nationally around #hergametoo promoting women in football has been completely undermined. We are fed all these tick boxy campaigns and empty words but when it comes down to it we still have so far to go.’

England's Lionesses played Spain at Carrow Road in the Arnold Clark Cup in February

England’s Lionesses played Spain at Carrow Road in the Arnold Clark Cup in February

Another Mulbarton Ladies player told Sportsmail before the U-turn: ‘Women’s football has grown so much within this year seeing so many milestones being achieved with one of them being the Lionesses play at Carrow Road for the first time this year.

‘The Norfolk FA wonder why grassroots football is dropping, but this is one of the many reasons why. It has yet again prioritised the senior cup. 

‘The Norfolk FA have not even made an effort to choose another venue, such as the Suffolk County FA have.

‘It is disappointing, as where we played in the semi-final was a bigger venue then our actual final’s venue. This was a great chance to show how far women’s football has come, to show young kids their dreams can be achieved.’

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