West Ham United have been accused of breaching FA rules on sexual discrimination...by West Ham Ladies.
The women's team chairman Stephen Hunt (no, not that one) has lodged a formal complaint with the FA after months of arguments with the club pertaining to training facilities and funding. "West Ham need to be fined until they start to act like a 21st century club," he told BBC Sport.
Hunt makes some startling allegations, including that the club have prohibited West Ham Ladies from finding their own sponsors, and that the women's side are now grossly strapped for cash because they had to buy their own kit. According to Hunt, West Ham had promised to send a cheque to cover the costs but failed to do so, and the club has now stopped answering their emails.
West Ham Ladies play in the Premier League Southern Division - the third tier of English women's football - and currently have to train 'by the side of the road' as the club doesn't allow them to use the same gym as the men's team. They also can't afford a physio or a bus to take them to matches, and - perhaps most farcically of all - are playing in last season's home kit 'with the names of last season's players crossed out on the back'.
Hunt told the BBC:
I think West Ham have breached the underlying objectives of the FA to promote equality and grassroots football at all levels.
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.
West Ham Statement
West Ham, for their part, released the following statement on the matter, in which they claimed that they would seek to take the Ladies team 'in house' as soon as possible, despite perceived difficulties in doing so.
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.
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.
When contacted again by the BBC, Hunt denied ever having 'threatened' the club, and said he would be more than happy to hand the women's team back over to West Ham as long as he receives assurances that West Ham Ladies' best interests would be met.