Ben Gilby spoke to Beth Pritchard whose new book No Points, about the premature end of the women’s football season due to Coronavirus last year, comes out today. In the interview, Beth tells us about how the idea of the book developed and some of the contents that we can all look forward to reading.
Beth has been involved in the women’s game for a while, as she explains: “I work for Lincoln City Women. When I joined the team, they had no media presence to the point I didn’t know there was a women’s team on my doorstep – at the time, they were Nettleham Ladies and played just a couple of villages over from my house. I decided I’d spend a season working with the team just to get my foot in the door in the journalism and media industry but at this point in time, I wanted to be the next Louis Theroux and sports journalism wasn’t a long term goal. However, I fell in love with it and can’t imagine working in any other field and feeling the same passion.”
In terms of how the book came together, the first seed was planted by the bizarre prospect of seeing all 2019/20 league tables not telling the full story of eight months of action: “When it was announced last season that the past eight months were being made null and void, it didn’t sit right with me that the league tables on fulltime.com we’re all filled with zeros. The season may not have counted but the teams had still racked up the points so why should that have been wiped?”
“I was fortunate enough for Chris Slegg to ask me if I wanted to help with the latest edition of the Women’s Football Yearbook at a similar time and obviously jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the great work Chris and Tom Garry do to keep a record of something that is recorded time and time again in the men’s game. Unfortunately and understandably, the 2020-21 edition didn’t record the FAWNL as previous years’ had so I saw a ‘gap in the market’ so to speak and wanted to fill it. I don’t want people to look back years down the line – perhaps doing their dissertation on women’s football as I was doing at the time of the idea – and not be able to find this valuable information.”
I asked Beth to give us a brief outline of the book in a bid to see what potential readers of this important publication can expect:
“I collected information that is still in the public domain and collated the information I’d asked the FA Women’s National League in order to give a factual overview of the season. However, not only can readers expect to learn facts, I wanted to make the book personal and emotional. Therefore, I contacted clubs, managers, players and fans to ask about the season. I wanted to hear how they felt about the null and void decision as well as their teams’ performances along the way.”
The book took almost a year to produce from start to finish, as Beth reveals: “I actually started writing in the first UK lockdown but ever the procrastinator, I didn’t finish it until Lockdown 3.0. This was partly due to slow responses from the participants but also partly because I was fitting writing this around my paid work. When it started to look like completing the 2020-21 season was uncertain, I had renewed motivation to get this book finished. I relied heavily on social media to find what clubs had said about games etc and have to give @talkingWOSO a particular shout out for tweeting statistics as the season went along. So, all in all the writing process was very difficult.”
One of the issues in compiling the book was the different experience in trying to get information together from the top two divisions and FA Women’s National League sides: “Researching FAWSL and Championship teams was so much easier than finding the same information for FAWNL sides. Mostly it was because club website and local news sites had match reports and interviews weekly, something still lacking in the lower leagues. It was also clear that teams with higher ranked men’s sides had better infrastructure to record their women’s teams’ progress. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Derby County were great examples of this.”
Women’s football is full of incredible characters and it is what makes the game such a wonderful thing to write about. I wondered who were the people who really stuck with Beth during the process of writing the book?
“I spoke to Steve Maddock about Barnsley being outspoken when it came to the null and void decision. It was very interesting to hear him speak so passionately about wanting a resolution – of course, that was because his team were almost guaranteed promotion and their ‘solution’ was something that positively impacted them and not the rest of the sides.”
In terms of the message that the book wants to give, for Beth it is that “I wanted to focus on the issues in reporting as opposed to the issues with the league decision and make clear I’m not criticising the season being voided, especially after Carol West, chairperson of the FAWNL, agreed to answer some of my questions.”
“I think there’s a long way to go to achieving a level playing field in women’s football. It’s so much easier for teams with more money to promote themselves, as volunteers in the FAWNL and below can’t be expected to invest time and money into hiring people to publish match reports or keep their websites up to date. It won’t be until more money is pumped into the lower levels of the pyramid that we’ll achieve equality here and really hope that happens soon.”
In terms of where people can buy Beth’s book, at the present time it is only available on Amazon, as Beth says: “I really like the idea of supporting small, local bookstores but due to the niche nature of the book, I couldn’t afford to take that financial risk. I hope that any future books I write will be more widely available but for now, it’s only on Amazon.”
To buy Beth Pritchard’s No Points, or find out more, click on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Points-Beth-Pritchard-ebook/dp/B08Y5XSVYR/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=no+points+beth+pritchard&qid=1615829753&s=books&sr=1-1