Leicester City Women - Meeting the Manager
In the run up to the World Cup this summer, we’re shining a light and passing the mic to some of the men who are doing amazing things to support and develop the women’s game. Our second article of the series took us to Leicester, where we caught up with the Leicester City Women’s manager, Jonathan Morgan, to understand his ambitions for his team, and the move from semi-pro to pro and the future of women’s football.
Thanks for taking the time to meet with us Jonathan - could you tell us how you got into the position your in today?
Well, I used to play at semi-professional level with Hinckley United F.C, unfortunately I got injured which kept me out of the game, however I was always keen to stay involved in some capacity.
My sister Holly Morgan at the time was playing for Leicester City Women, having done so since she was 10. At the time they were looking for a Reserve Team Manager, and so in the interim I offered to help out. At the time I had no real ambition to go into coaching, but my first game was fantastic, one I will always remember. From day one I caught the bug and that’s how it all began really.
Since getting injured back at Hinckley, I did lose the enjoyment for the game, however this experience really brought that back. It was also great to apply my personal footballing experience to the women’s team.
The Reserve team was a fantastic environment, I have never looked back from there.
I remember last time we met, I asked you how much the girls got paid and you said they don’t - they have to pay to play, pay to travel - how has that changed even in the last 18 months?
Well in the last 18 months a lot has changed significantly for the Club. We now operate within a semi-professional environment, competing against the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs in the FA Women’s Championship.
As you mentioned when I began our Players paid to play, paid to travel, they were part of the Club for the natural love for the game. 18 months on, the Club is in a sustainable position to be able to pay and reward its Players to play football.
It is, personally, a fantastic feeling to watch the Club grow from strength to strength. Especially watching our homegrown players transition into professional athletes in the sport they love.
What’s the relationship with LCFC now?
We have a great relationship with LCFC. Their support in our Championship bid was invaluable and hugely positive.
Leicester are taking a keen interest in the Women’s side. The wheels are in motion certainly. We just look forward to continue doing the badge proud.
So outside the training and the development of your players, what’s the impact been on fan attendance?
We’re getting more and more fans coming to games, whilst also attracting many different audiences, that’s greats to see. We played Aston Villa earlier in the year at Villa Park, which saw over 1600 fans attend. The home support at Farley Way stadium is fantastic, they really are the 12th Player for our girls.
I think the wider perception of the Women’s game is definitely changing too. The stigma seems to be dissolving, the sexism feels more outdated than it used to be, I believe that may be down to the fact the game has professionalised.
The women’s game has a unique selling point because it is very family oriented. At our games we have at times over 50 girls attend as part of the LCWFC Sister Club package.
What’s the most important thing the women’s game needs now?
We need more investment. To get sponsors in, it must be commercially viable for them, we get that - I think it just needs that push to bump it over the line. It’s just like the women's tennis, it took them a while to get there, but once you’re there the sponsorships just flood in. I think we need to follow sports like the tennis and the golf, and how they’ve developed the women’s game - and that’s what the FA are doing very well at the minute.
If you’d come to me five years ago and said we’d be where we are now, I’d have laughed as it’s pretty much unrecognisable. Moving forward, we need to focus on growing the fanbase, and that’s on the club to help create as well. The bigger the fanbase, the more people will want to invest - it’s a positive cycle but initially it can be hard to crack. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come, so i’m looking forward to seeing what will change in the next five years!
It’s such an exciting time for women’s football. What are your future ambitions for the club?
Yes it certainly is, the next three years is going to be fantastic for the Women’s game.
Not just mine, but every member of Leicester City Women wants to see the Club competing at the top level against the top teams. The Club is very ambitious, and so we have set high targets for ourselves. We are working hard off the pitch to create a sustainable environment to aid our ambitious plans.
I would also like to see the continued success of our Players on an international level. The Club has a number of girls making international teams from our Under 15s right through to Seniors. It’s amazing to see that they’ve come through our own coaching product, we couldn’t be prouder of that. Developing those girls is part of our five-year plan, pushing them and creating an elite team to compete in the top tiers of the country.
Huge thanks to Jonathan for taking the time to chat with us, and for the support of @lcwfc