Dons Ladies are 'a long way off' turning professional

MK Dons Ladies manager James Honeyman
MK Dons Ladies manager James Honeyman

MK Dons Ladies are at least four years away from realistically considering going professional, according to manager James Honeyman.

The squad lifted the South East Division One title on Sunday after winning their remaining 11 games, but stepping up a division next season will offer Honeyman and his squad a different set of challenges to overcome though.

Coming up against clubs from all over the south of the country, the ladies will be travelling to the likes of Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton and Cardiff - and doing so while managing full-time jobs and family lives too.

While the club is several years away from even considering turning professional, Honeyman said the club risk losing some players as a result of the commitments needed.

He said: “All these girls have full time jobs outside of this. Some are prison guards, some are working shift patterns, teachers. The commitment from them is unbelievable and that will grow next season. Unfortunately we might find a few players who can’t commit, because they have kids and it may be the end of their journey with us.

“We’re a long way away from going professional, and that’s right because any club that tries to make that massive jump has struggled. We need to build to it, and it will coincide with the growth at this club.

“Hopefully, it will coincide with the training ground too to give us that platform. We’ll set two-year goals again, and maybe by the end of year four we might be closer."

That rise may also coincide with the ever-growing reputation of the women's game in England. Ranked as one of the top five teams in the world, women's football continues to attract more and more fans to games, but Honeyman says it is unrealistic to expect the game to be as big as the men's game any time soon.

"The women's game is 25 years old - I don't imagine the men's game was getting this much coverage in 1910!" he said. "But there are was 45,000 people at the FA Cup final, and they're thinking about opening the top tier of Wembley. It's going to grow and grow steadily.

"If you compare it to the men's game, it's totally different. It will get there, it's getting commercial backing, games are on TV, it'w going in the right direction. But it cannot grow too quickly, it has to be allowed to grow naturally. The restructure will help too, and it will open the door for other teams to get into the mix."