Tottenham Hotspur Women may have lost the Ramon de Carranza Trophy yesterday in Spain, falling to Athletic Club Bilbao in penalty kicks, but they also made a significant acquisition on the same day. Spurs signed 23-year old forward Kit Graham, a player under contract at semi-pro and FA Women’s Championship club Charlton Athletic on a free transfer, after Graham successfully completed a trial with the club. The announcement was made yesterday on Spurs Women’s twitter account.
It’s a very good signing for Spurs — according to Tottenham’s official release, Graham was the top scorer in her third division league two years ago, scoring an astounding 47 goals in 35 games for Charlton. Last year, Graham scored 16 goals (12 league goals) in the Championship, putting her towards the top of the scoring charts (but behind United’s Jessica Sigsworth and Spurs’ Rianna Dean), and was named the FAWC Player’s Player of the Season. She’s still young and talented, and Tottenham is a good landing place for her.
Graham joins Spurs for their premier campaign in the top flight after already impressing while Spurs were in Spain for their preseason tournament — she scored as a still-unsigned trialist against Real Betis Feminino (technically a preseason friendly) and was signed at the conclusion of the tournament.
However, Graham’s old club, Charlton, is not at all happy with this turn of events. According to the Evening Standard, Charlton has lost Graham, their best player and one they had under contract, and because the FA doesn’t have compensation rules for contracted players the way the men’s game does, they are not due any compensation whatsoever. They basically lost their most saleable asset for nothing.
The rules are a bit byzantine, specifically regarding contracts between professional and semi-pro clubs, but according to the Standard report, the FA ruled that while Charlton did have Graham under contract, they did not follow league procedures, meaning Spurs had an opening to swoop in and offer her a professional contract on a free transfer, which was then ratified by the FA. Spurs don’t appear to have broken any rules, but Charlton are still considering legal action against the FA as they believe the system is not fair, as currently written.
A Charlton spokesperson said the following:
“We believe we have followed the rules within the contract and are frustrated that there is no compensation money in place in the women’s game. We want compensation for the fact we invested tens of thousands of pounds into developed a player who we believe is still under a contract of employment with the club.
“It also it brings into question if certain rules of the women’s game are strong enough to protect a player who you invest in. The women’s game is growing so fast that some rulings have not caught up.”
Tottenham doesn’t seem to be the “bad guy” in this situation, though it could perhaps be argued that they took advantage of some bad regulations to swoop for a good player under contract with another club. However, even Charlton seems to admit that Spurs didn’t do anything against the letter of the law in this situation — just that the situation really sucks, and that they got jobbed in the process.
Charlton wants the rules to be changed, and I agree — while Spurs end up with a very good player, these are bad rules that need to be modified, or as the women’s game grows in England it will be easier and easier for top-division clubs to poach the best talent for little to no compensation from the lower divisions, whose clubs have been developing English women’s talent for many years.
Kit Graham got her dream move to the WSL and Spurs got a good player, one that will help as they try to survive their first season in England’s top flight. As a Spurs fan, I’m thrilled that the club continues to improve and sign quality talent. It would be unfair to put any negative blame on Graham for this either. However, I can’t help but be left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not Tottenham’s fault, or Graham’s, but it doesn’t make me feel especially great that a system is in place that allows something like this to happen to a club that has been incubating women’s talent in the lower divisions. This is something the FA does need to address, or it will happen again.