Friday, 4 January 2013

The Lady Imps head back to the Bank

 Since the end of last season there have been plenty of discussion and rumours flying around amongst Lady Imps fans as to where Lincoln Ladies will be playing their football in the 2013 season. Today it was announced that the club will be hosting league matches at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank Stadium. A venue that hosted some of the club’s matches in the 2011 inaugural FA WSL season and in my view the best stadium in Lincolnshire. Personally I think that it is a great opportunity for the club and I am quite excited by the prospect.

 Before I go on to the reasons why I think this could be a great springboard for the club it would be wrong of me not to thank Lincoln United for all they have done for the Lady Imps over the past few seasons and all the hard work the ground staff and committee at United have put in to providing a suitable arena for the Ladies to play at. It must be hard to produce a pitch that is going to be in use pretty much all year round but I think by and large they can be very proud of their efforts. I have always enjoyed games at Ashby Avenue (Both United and Lady Imp games) and wish them all the best for the future

 As for the future I can see two major advantages of playing at Sincil Bank for the club. The first one being location, for people reading this that haven’t been to the Bank before it is a mere 10 minutes walk from the town centre, railway and bus stations. The high street is packed with pubs aplenty and there is also a good number of places to get something to eat on the approach to the stadium. Although personally I hope that the club retains the services of the people who ran the catering team last season. Being central does make it easier for fans to attend matches and for the club to run promotions as more people in the city know where Sincil Bank is. Secondly is the Stadium itself; at the risk of jumping the gun I would imagine that the club will open the Main Stand (Echo Stand) up for the matches. This has a capacity of roughly 1600 which should be ample for us. This stand also houses a recently refurbished bar and hospitality areas which will give the club an area for entertaining sponsors and offering them hospitality thus opening up new revenue streams that the club didn’t have access to before. There is also a padded seating area in the stand so guests of the club will be able to watch the game in comfort from the best view in the house. The rest of the stand also offers a great view of the action and with the fans all in one place we should be able to get some atmosphere going and get behind the girls.

 There are also plenty of other benefits. From a players point of view the upgrade in changing facilities will be most welcome I would imagine and with City employing a full time ground staff team the pitch will be better thus allowing the Lady Imps their natural passing game which at times was held back last season due to the pitch. It could also be a powerful tool in player recruitment. As I would imagine it would be hard for a player to not want to play in a stadium like this. Another interesting angle is that playing at Sincil Bank would give us a much better chance of being selected for a live game on ESPN. We missed out last season but we must be strong contenders for a game now given our new surroundings and supplying 5 players to the recent England national team training camp. Of course the big test will be if the move gets more punters through the gate. Although there are no guarantees that attendances will rise, a quick look back at Lady Imp recent history points to some encouraging facts. In the 2011 season when home matches were split between Sincil Bank and Ashby Avenue the club averaged over 500 a game with last year’s average being somewhere in the region of 350. Going back a little further in January 2002 the Lady Imps (who were working their way up the footballing pyramid at the time) faced Everton at home in the 5th round of the FA Cup The tie was staged at Sincil Bank and drew a crowd of over 1,500 for the game. Lincoln may have lost 2-7 after taking the lead but it showed that there was an appetite for women’s football within the City. Fast forward a few years to the 2007/08 season and The Lady Imps found themselves in an FA cup semi final against Arsenal. Again the match was staged at Sincil Bank and was watched by over 3,000 fans. Now I am not saying that we will attract crowds like those last two matches I mentioned, but it does go to show what could be achieved and the potential that is out there.

 As always, change is a little daunting for some people and I can understand if some fans have concerns about the ground move especially those that haven’t been to Sincil Bank before. I hope the reasons I have listed above and eased your concerns a little and we can all look forward to an even brighter future for the Lady Imps in our new home.

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