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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Banks stays with semi-pro Gunners
Angela Banks in action against Fulham
Angela Banks has been Arsenal's star striker
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By Tony Leighton
BBC Sport Online

Arsenal Ladies announced on Wednesday they are to turn semi-professional - and the move reaped an instant reward as Angela Banks pledged her future to the club.

The new semi-pro status does not put the Gunners in the same position as rivals Fulham, Europe's only professional women's outfit.

But it does mean that star striker Banks will remain at Highbury rather than move across London to join the Cottagers.

It's important we don't leave other clubs too far behind because we're all working towards the same end
Arsenal boss Vic Akers

The 26-year-old England player has been involved in talks with Fulham manager Gaute Haugenes about a proposed transfer.

But Arsenal's decision to turn semi-pro has swayed Banks in favour of her present club, where she works in a clerical capacity as well as being a player.

  Arsenal anger at Fulham move

"Fulham made me a very good offer," said Banks, "but I do love playing for Arsenal.

"The club's decision to go semi-pro will help us catch up with Fulham on the fitness front.

"And I'm going to be able to work from home a bit more and do more gym work around that."

Manager Vic Akers was elated at Banks' decision.

"It's terrific news for me and also for the sport," he said.

"It shows it's not all about money but that people still value being at a club for the love of the place."

Step forward

Becoming semi-professional means Arsenal's players will be able to fit in more training sessions and find it financially easier to combine football with work.

Akers explained: "The board have cleared some funds for us and while it's not a bottomless pit, it's a substantial step forward for the girls and for the club.

"It's also a good thing that we don't leave other clubs too far behind because we're all working towards the same end and some clubs have less money than others."

Many in the women's game fear Fulham's professional status might make them totally dominant in an otherwise amateur game.

But it remains to be seen whether or not other club's will follow Arsenal's lead so that the Fulham juggernaut can at least be kept within sight.

See also:

26 Apr 02 |  Football
Arsenal Ladies clinch title
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