West Ham have been accused of breaking Football Association rules on discrimination – by the chairman of the West Ham Ladies team.
Stephen Hunt has lodged a formal complaint with the FA after months of argument over funding and facilities.
“West Ham needs to be fined until they start to act like a 21st century club,” he told BBC Sport.
As a result of his complaint, West Ham say they will take charge of the women’s team in due course.
According to Hunt, West Ham have stopped them finding their own sponsors, and they are short on funds because they had to buy their own kit.
He claims West Ham had promised a cheque to cover the costs but the money has not come through and the Premier League club have also stopped answering their emails.
He says his team, who play in the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division, the third tier of women’s football, have to train by the side of a road as West Ham will not let them do so in the gym.
They also cannot afford a physio or a bus to take them to matches, and are playing in last season’s home kit with the names of last season’s players crossed out on the back.
“I think West Ham have breached the underlying objectives of the FA to promote equality and grassroots football at all levels,” he added.
“Initially what I thought was a lack of interest I now understand is a positive intent by senior people at West Ham to block the growth of West Ham Ladies.
“It’s beyond negligence – it is trying to starve us of any sort of funding.”
What West Ham say
West Ham say they are dedicated to equality in sport but the current arrangement with the ladies’ team has not worked.
“Supporting, nurturing and facilitating the women’s game is very important to West Ham United, a club with strong community principles and a dedication to equality in sport,” said a statement.
“The day-to-day management of West Ham United Ladies FC was transferred to a third party some time ago, and unfortunately it is an arrangement that has simply not worked.
“Mr. Hunt has refused to align with West Ham’s principles throughout his tenure as chairman and has, on a number of occasions, threatened the club.
“The club have been working for some time on plans to take West Ham United Ladies FC ‘in house’ and, in light of Mr. Hunt’s most recent deeply concerning comments, we will now be seeking to do so at the earliest opportunity.
“We will, of course, seek to maintain the current West Ham United Ladies FC squad personnel where possible, and provide them with the best possible support and management moving forward.
“As a result of this, women’s football at West Ham United will become bigger, better and stronger, as we continue our commitment to the growth and development of the women’s game, both on and off the pitch.”
In response, Hunt denies he has threatened the club and says he would be happy to hand the women’s team over to the club if he got guarantees and assurances that the ladies are protected.