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Louise Quinn left reeling as Notts County Ladies fold

Republic of Ireland international dealt a cruel body blow by the game she loves

Louise Quinn in action for the Republic of Ireland: “I think women’s football is pure passion because we don’t make that much money.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

When Irish international Louise Quinn travelled back to Nottingham a few weeks ago, she thought she was leaving all the bad politics behind her.

She had played her part in a stand-off between the women’s national football team and the FAI regarding the treatment of the players. After a night of mediation talks, most of their requests for better standards were met.

Relieved to be able to focus on playing football again, Quinn returned to her club Notts County with a heightened sense of pride in what she helped achieve for women’s football back home.

The defender was looking forward to channelling that energy into her club football, until a text message sent to Notts County players last Thursday night, scuppered those plans.

Training for the following day had been cancelled and a meeting was taking place instead. The players were spooked by the sudden cancellation, and the fact that training had been replaced by a meeting just two days before their first game of the Spring Series, deepened their suspicions.

“You reschedule training but you don’t cancel it,” says Quinn.

The players gathered at the club’s stadium in Meadow Lane as instructed, where they were stunned to hear that the Ladies’ club was folding, due to a debt of almost £1 million (€1.18 million).

They were aware of the club’s ongoing financial struggles, but according to Quinn “everyone was reassured that they were going to do their best and that it should work out”.

Local businessman Alan Hardy, who purchased the men’s and women’s club in December, did not attend Friday’s meeting due to a family commitment. In the club’s official statement about the news, he said he “left no stone unturned in my quest to save the club,” adding that “continuing would have been little short of financial suicide”.

Quinn says that she and her team-mates were left frustrated by his absence.

“On our part, it’s even a bit cowardly that he couldn’t be there himself. He said that he had a family commitment but just, in general, to never meet us, to never know who he was working with . . . there was a lot of frustration that it wasn’t even done in the right way, we feel.”

Alternative plans

She added that she felt the severity of the situation could have been relayed to them earlier, in order to give players time to make alternative plans.

“It feels like he may have even known when he came into the position that this wasn’t going to work and like he was maybe stringing us along. That’s how the girls felt.

“I haven’t been here too long to know what kind of happened a little bit before, but this is kind of it. We all could have moved on and found a club when there was enough time to find a club whereas now, club budgets could be met, they may not need the players.”

Quinn and other members of the ‘Lady Pies’ are staying in club-owned accommodation at the moment, and Hardy has guaranteed none of those players will be evicted while they look for somewhere else to stay.

“I hope he keeps his word on that one. We need time to sort ourselves out really. He says he will, so I hope he does, because a lot of people are banking on that until they figure out what they can do. Whether that’s finding another club or go home, and that’s what it could be turning into.”

Hardy was not available for comment, when contacted by The Irish Times.

The players raised several questions at the meeting about how this development will impact on them, and Quinn says some of those questions remain unanswered.

While she has been informed by a club employee that the liquidators are believed to be arriving this week, she says players are still awaiting clarity on other issues, including when they can sign for another club. However, speaking on BBC Nottingham Sport, Hardy says “four players have got new clubs”.

“We’ve to get our salaries,” Quinn continues, “and try to move on and see when they will be able to release us from our contracts properly. I’m not sure why we’re not officially released from our contracts [now].”

“It’s just so up in the air. A lot of the girls had settled into homes, settled into study or a bit of part-time work. That’s kind of gone down the drain a little bit. They don’t even know how they’re gonna pay their rent.”

Further misery

There was to be further misery for some of the Notts County contingent this week, when it was discovered that some of the players’ gear had disappeared from the facility where they train. Quinn was one of the lucky few who wasn’t affected by the incident, but she said it was “an extra kick in the teeth” for players who lost football boots and other essentials.

When the 26-year-old Wicklow native signed for Notts County in February, she wasn’t totally aware of the club’s financial problems. Her research of the team focused more on results rather than the business side of things, and Notts County boasted an impressive history.

They finished sixth in the Women’s Super League 1 last season, and also reached the FA Cup final in 2015. Quinn identified with their style of play, and thought it would be a good fit for her. Indications from the club suggested their immediate future was secure and Quinn’s agent felt confident about the offer as well.

“Obviously, I got signed,” says Quinn. “One of the other girls got signed at the start of the year. Five or six core players from the original team signed back in January. We were given the thought that it could be tough but it should work out. I’ve always felt that Notts County have always had a great reputation, just a really strong physical team, and a great cup team that got to Wembley.

“To me, they’ve always had a really good reputation and I just thought I was gonna fit in really well there with how I play. It was looking that way but we didn’t get to experience it. I never actually set foot on the Meadow Lane pitch unfortunately. We played a few games but never got to play at the official home stadium.”

Quinn previously played her club football with Eskilstuna United in Sweden for four seasons, before transferring to Notts County. She had just begun making the adjustment to a new home, when the news was broken to the team.

“I brought over my car just after the last international break. I drove the car back over, which was starting to make things so much easier. I was starting to get a nice group of friends. I had learnt to drive to their house without the maps and everything.

The shock

“It takes a little while to settle into these things, and that was finally starting to happen. And now we could be playing against each other on a pitch sometime soon and going from team-mates to rivals.”

“We’re just doing what we love and it just kind of got whipped from under us.”

After last Friday’s meeting, Quinn retreated to a cafe with some of her teammates to process the news before making her way back to her accommodation. It was there that the shock of what had just unfolded prompted her to start considering life after professional sport.

“It does make you think about life after football as well. As soon as your job gets taken away from you, you don’t have an income. You need something else to fall back on.

“I suppose when you’re in it, you just play your football as normal. It’s your job, you’re so happy to do it. You know how lucky you are, but you don’t think either way. Your work is going to training, going to the gym and doing all that.”

This setback however, has not deterred Quinn from continuing to play the sport she loves. And while it’s not a glamorous living, she’s happy to continue investing her life in it.

“This is what I want to do. I think women’s football is pure passion because we don’t make that much money. If I had maybe a regular job, I’d probably be making more money. It’s just for the love of the game really and you keep going.”