A question for Arsenal fans, do you support Arsenal or Arsenal FC?
What do I mean, are they not the same thing?
Alas, they are not the same thing, there is in fact a major difference.
Many Arsenal fans will tell you that they are die-hard Gooners, but in fact what they mean is that they are die-hard fans of Arsene Wenger's Senior Men's team that play in the English Premier League. These are Arsenal fans.
Arsenal FC fans are those that support Wenger's men but also track the results of the Youth and Reserve teams and the Ladies Teams.
I am an Arsenal FC fan and also a fan of furthering women's participation in sport. In short, the women at Arsenal are heroes of mine.
Just what and who are Arsenal LFC?
Arsenal Ladies FC were formed in 1987 by the women's present General Manager and Men's present kit manager; Vic Akers.
The team play at Meadow Park, Borehamwood which has a capacity of 4,502.
Initially the team were amateur but turned semi-professional in 2002. Many of the players are employed by Arsenal to work with youth academy players, both male and female. The team are heavily backed by the club as they are sponsored by Nike and Fly Emirates whilst also being allowed to use the Emirates Stadium for big matches.
Unlike the men's senior team, the women's team is made up completely of players from Britain and Ireland. Eleven players are from England, four from Ireland, three from Scotland and one from Wales.
The best players are considered to be Faye White and goalkeeper Emma Byrne.
Are they any good?
Is the Pope Catholic?
In their short 21 year history they have won a massive 29 major trophies. This includes 10 FA Women Premier Leagues, 8 Women's FA Cups, 9 Women's Leagues Cups and 1 UEFA Women's Cup.
This makes them the most successful women's club in English football by quite a margin.
Ok, so they've won more trophies than the Arsenal men's team in the last two decades, but have they gone Unbeaten?
Actually they have!
Forget about Manchester United and their triple winning team or Arsenal's men going unbeaten, that is nothing compared to what the Arsenal Ladies achieved in the 2006-2007 season.
In that season they won all three domestic trophies and the UEFA Women's Cup to complete a magnificent quadruple. Many teams would consider that an accomplishment but not the Arsenal Ladies, they went one step further by not only going through the league unbeaten but also winning all of their 22 league games, scoring 119 goals and conceding just 10.
In addition, the Arsenal Ladies defeated Umea IK 1-0 in the European final, a team made up of full-time professionals whereas the Arsenal Ladies play as well as holding down full time jobs (either at the club or elsewhere).
So are they still as impressive?
Yes, although last season saw them win two trophies—the League and FA Cup. They went through the season unbeaten yet again (20 wins and 2 draws). Arsenal's last League defeat came against Charlton Athletic on October 15th, 2003 meaning the club have been unbeaten in the league for over four and a half years.
Additionally, during that spell Arsenal won a record 51 league games in a row, in a spell between November 2005 and April 2008.
This season they are on form as ever. Currently they top the League table with eight wins, having scored a massive 48 goals, conceding 10. Their nearest rivals are Everton Ladies with 18 points who have two games in hand over the Lady Gooners.
Once again they represent England in Europe and are through to the quarter final stage against Umea Ik.
Just last weekend the Arsenal Ladies added another milestone to their achievements - going 100 games unbeaten in the Premier League. The full rundown of this spectacular achievement can be found here.
Problems for the future
This team has been built on hard graft and the endeavour of the club to perform at every level.
However, Chelsea have been recently flashing the cash and signed two of Arsenal's better players Lianne Sanderson and Anita Asante.
The biggest threat is coming from the States where a professional League is due to start in 2009 and they have already "drafted" in Arsenal's Kelly Smith and Karen Carney. Vic Akers and other Arsenal board members are holding a number of meetings as how to combat this new league and threat to the club.
Have I secured any new fans?
I hope in this article I have turned a few more Arsenal fans into Arsenal FC fans.
These women are the real deal and can play some sublime football. Unfortunately for me I have barely 2 cents to rub together never mind the price of a flight, accommodation and match ticket to see Arsenal play in any of their forms.
However, to those that are in and around London I beg of you to go cheer the Ladies team on, a season ticket will set you back a mere £20—yes that is twenty pounds!!
Arsenal Ladies next match is away against Leicester on 02 November.
I will regularly update events for those interested.