Cardiff City’s ladies show growth of Welsh women’s football is at league level too

The high-flying Bluebirds are inspiring the younger generation to get involved in the sport

WOMEN’S football in Wales is enjoying its own golden period and Cardiff City are helping to maintain that feel-good sense of momentum.

In October, the women’s national team came agonisingly close to qualifying for their first ever World Cup, losing to a last-minute goal against Switzerland in the playoffs.

They also recently set a historic precedent with the FAW, with the announcement that both men’s and women’s players will receive equal pay whilst playing for their country.

On the domestic scene though, the growth of the game both on and off the pitch is reflected in the rise of the side from the capital, Cardiff City Women.

The Bluebirds currently find themselves top of the Genero Adran Premier with 35 points from 13 games played so far. With 11 wins and only two draws, the team are on course to secure only their second ever league title – a first since 2012-13.

Their current success saw them set the record attendance for a Welsh league game while beating Abergavenny 9-0 in front of 5,175 people at the Cardiff City Stadium in November 2022.

That size crowd is usually reserved for special occasions but the women’s side still enjoys healthy support on general matchdays at the Cardiff International Sports Stadium.

Jamie Anderson and his daughter

“The women’s game could do with a better attendance, but the people who do go are families with daughters and it’s great,” said Cardiff City fan Jamie Anderson, who started regularly going to games with his daughter last season.

“You often find that you’ll see the same familiar faces at games. When people go to the games for the first time, they usually end up coming back.

“The girls are vital for me in giving my daughter and other women hope for the future.

“I think the engagement between players and fans is brilliant. The players make it their job to see and talk to fans and it makes the whole day great”.

With crowds consisting of families and aspiring young female footballers, the atmosphere at games can often be a welcomed escape from the more tribalistic nature of the men’s game.

“I think there’s a difference. We don’t see the same level of hostilities,” said Mr Anderson.

“There’s a positive atmosphere where fans will want the girls to do well and we’re always congratulating the opposition, the respect is there.”

Andrew’s daughter with players and coaches of Cardiff City Women’s team

The Bluebirds are currently seven points clear of their nearest challengers Cardiff Met and rivals Swansea City, who have both dominated the league in the past.

Both sides hold the joint record for most league titles won with six each.

“They are in a good position to win it, but you have to give credit to the other sides,” said Mr Anderson.

“The league is getting competitive with TNS and Swansea to name just two sides who are improving.

“But Cardiff have a good set up in place and they all share a common goal, so you really have to give credit to the management, players, and coaches.”

The Bluebirds are blessed with a host of talented players, including the likes of Phoebie Poole and Rhianne Oakley.

Both players have been on inspired form this season, bagging a combined tally of 19 goals so far.

“We’ve changed to a new formation and it just really shows the attacking talent we have in this team,” Poole told S4C.

“It’s just led to goals and winning games.

“The goals I’ve loved the most probably all came from the hat-trick I scored in the CCS, I was just so grateful to play there again in front of a really loud crowd.”

But it’s not just performances on the pitch which has seen improvements, as there has also been a huge growth in the number of young girls taking part in the various youth teams run by the club.

“Women’s football is getting bigger and bigger,” said midfielder Seren Watkins.

“There’s more girls starting from a younger age coming up, we’ve got Under 16’s, under 19’s teams which are bringing in a lot more younger girls through sort of like a pathway now. So yeah, it’s really looking bright.”

The team is also blessed with a wealth of young talent, such as Lily Billingham and Megan Bowen who have both been capped at under 19’s level for the national team and have been touted as potential future stars.

However despite the recent rise in interest there is still a long way to go to improve the women’s game in Wales.

“I do think there needs to be more investment in the league,” said Mr Anderson.

“It’s not cheap to keep facilities going especially if you’re a lower club without the backing of clubs like Cardiff or Swansea for example.”

The Bluebirds haven’t won the league since the 2012/13 season and they will no doubt be aiming to break that 10-year wait this season.

Last season, the team finished third in the league behind both Cardiff Met and champions Swansea. But they were able to gain some silverware by winning the Welsh cup, beating Cardiff Met 2-0 in the final.

“We knew that getting that first trophy was a massive step for us and you can see the positive impact it’s had on the squad,” head coach Ian Darbyshire told S4C.

“We’re in a really good position at the moment. We’ve been working really hard to improve ourselves on and off the pitch.”

The team are still competing on all three fronts, with upcoming games in both cup competitions against fellow Adran Premier sides Cardiff Met and TNS.

The prospect of completing a historic treble is not lost on head coach Darbyshire, who is determined that his side are fully capable of achieving what would be a historic achievement for the club.

“We believe that we can win all three trophies this year,” said Mr Darbyshire.

“Not getting to ahead of ourselves we know it’s going to be tough. But that’s what we’re going in to do this season.”

“We’ve started really well and we’re in a good position to do that going forward.”