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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Fulham pull plug on women's team
By Tony Leighton

Fulham manager Marieanne Spacey
Spacey was informed of the decision to scrap her team on Monday
Fulham FC have pulled out of the Nationwide Women's Premier League and scrapped their once all-conquering women's team.

The decision was made because the team, who won the treble of Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup in 2003, is not "financially viable".

A club statement said: "With little media profile and poor league crowds the structure is not sustainable."

Fulham had became Europe's first professional team in April 2000.

Club owner Mohamed Al Fayed made the leap after the Football Association's announcement earlier that year that the Premier League would become professional from the 2003-04 season.

But when it became obvious that would not happen, Al Fayed reduced the team's status to semi-professional.

A slide followed and last season the Cottagers finished one point above the relegation zone.

Now the team are no more and the decision has shocked the Football Association, who administer the Premier League and must decide how to cope with the loss of one of its top flight clubs.

Fulham chairman and owner Mohamed Al Fayed
The club turned professional under Mohamed Al Fayed in 2000

FA spokesman Alex Stone said: "We're surprised and very disappointed that a situation like this should arise at a club that has been one of women's football's innovators over recent years."

An FA Women's Committee meeting has been called for Wednesday to discuss the situation, which within the governing body is hoped might somehow be resolved in similar fashion to Birmingham's problems last year.

The Blues had their funding cut off by their parent club but at the 11th hour raised sufficient finance to operate as a stand-alone women's club.

Stone said: "We don't want to lose clubs and hopefully people within the women's set-up at Fulham might be able to come up with a plan to keep the side going."

The Fulham players, along with manager Marieanne Spacey, were reportedly devastated when informed of the club's decision at a meeting on Monday.

Former Arsenal, Fulham and England striker Spacey has a further meeting with the club on Thursday and is reluctant to speak publicly in the meantime.

But she said: "The girls were very disappointed when they heard the news, and it looks like it's the end of an era."

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