For a while now, you may think that things just ‘get done’ at the Orchard Welsh Premier Women’s League. But, behind the League there is a strong, determined woman. Ianthe Mumford pushes the League to be the best it can be, and, as proud headline sponsors, we thought it was well overdue for you all to meet her.
O: What is your role at the Orchard Welsh Premier Women’s League?
I: I am the General Manager for the WPWL; I look after the League and WPWL Cup, among other things... I could try to list everything the role encompasses, but it would be very long! Basically, I have responsibility for everything associated with the League, except for refereeing (I leave that to others!)
O: What sparked your interest in football?
I: My first experience of football was watching my brother play in his junior side. I enjoyed being around the families of the other players on the side lines, it gave me that sense of community, everyone shouting and cheering – maybe I should be grateful that they weren’t bad so there were lots to cheer about.
I felt the same at my first game at Anfield, sitting in the Kop with thousands of other people all chanting and singing - we were a part of something special. Even though we lost that particular game, it was a great day, and I couldn’t wait to go back and be part of it again.
O: What was your first role within professional women’s football?
I: My first professional role specifically for women’s football was supporting Liverpool Women with a community project, which later became the Sister Club programme. It grew to include managing the RTC (Regional Talent Centre) and I stepped up as acting General Manager of the whole club for several months.
O: During your time with the WPWL, what has been one of your outstanding memories?
I: This is difficult, as while it feels like I’ve been in the role for several years it’s only been one season and this of course got cut short – I guess you could say that making the decision to cancel games in March is an outstanding memory, but not for a good reason. One thing I really enjoyed was the end of season party we had in July 2019. It was great to get to know some of the players away from the game, hearing their thoughts on the League and how passionate they were about its development. I am hopeful that we’ll be able to have a party this season, as I’m very much looking forward to celebrating the best of the League with everyone (and getting our dancing shoes on!)
O: Are there any plans in the pipeline for the Orchard WPWL this season?
I: Now, the focus is completing the League and League Cup as planned, which we seem on course to do. It’s fantastic that we were able to get the League up and running again this season; the clubs have done an incredible job ensuring that the protocols are being followed and that players and staff are as safe as possible so that games can go ahead.
Off the pitch, we will continue to work with our friends and partners, including Orchard, who have been helping support us by providing us with advice and guidance in different areas, with the view to progressing the League for players, coaches and administrators alike, and preparing for the licensing process in April and May.
Also, while not strictly Tier One, it’s fantastic that we have secured FIFA funding for a Tier 2 Development Manager to come in and be another pair of hands with a focus just on female football.
O: There is an upcoming rebrand for the next season, what does this mean for the WPWL and the League?
I: It’s an exciting time for Women’s Football in Wales and while the rebrand will be the conclusion of a lot of hard work, it will also be the start of something new and hopefully amazing for everyone involved. Since I started in the role, a big focus has been on reviewing the pyramid and pathways, to ensure that Tier One is providing the best environment for our players and coaches to develop. This piece of work extended down into Tier Two and showed the need for an intermediate League, hence the creation of the U19’s (North and South). The new look will mean fewer teams in the top Tier, which will be determined through the Open Application Licencing process, where the clubs will be invited to present their development plans; I’m really looking forward to hearing all about how they want to grow the women and girls' game and what the future holds for our teams.
With the new look Leagues, it’s only appropriate that we have a new name and logo to go with it. Again, I’m excited about this – the current versions were originally copied from the men's League, but the League has come a very long way since its inception and it’s about time that it was given its own identity. On a personal note, I’m also pleased not to have the tongue-twister Welsh Premier Women’s League to say anymore.
O: What are your own hopes for the League?
I: Being able to provide an environment where everyone can reach their potential in the game and have their hard work and talent recognised is my ultimate hope for the League. To help achieve this, I’d like to see clubs really kicking on with their development plans, giving those involved at clubs across the country access to top class provision that they can pursue their ambitions, both domestically and on the international stage. Of course, as a League, we must also grow to be able to support this, and there will no doubt be a lot of hard work to get there.
Having more media exposure would also be great; the games regularly featuring on Sgorio this season has been a massive step forward, not to mention the live game (we had also secured a slot on BBC Radio Wales/Cymru in the spring, before COVID) and have set some key foundations to build on. Greater visibility of the women’s game, across all media to inspire more girls to get involved, be it as a player, coach, administrator, medic, media, referee etc... would be fantastic.