Arsenal Ladies are an MK Dons–style franchise formed in Islington, 1987.
In the 1980s Arsenal’s Vic Akers had copied Millwall’s successful community project and wanted to reproduce the Lionesses’ pioneering youth structure for girls too.
In 1987 Akers took a big shortcut and effectively bought his way into the upper echelons of the domestic women’s game by “amalgamating” Aylesbury Ladies.
Aylesbury were an established club and no mugs. The previous season they had knocked Friends of Fulham, the holders, out of the Women’s FA Cup.
Arsenal Ladies inherited Welsh goal–machine Naldra ‘Naz’ Ball from Aylesbury and her goals bagged the new franchise’s first few titles.
Akers became a modern day Alfred Frankland, thinking nothing of inviting players from rival teams along to training.
No rules were broken – after all, there were no contracts to break.
But inducements were offered and the franchise’s “shamateur” ethos quickly led them to Dick, Kerr’s-style dominance over their strictly amateur rivals.
An unhealthy stranglehold was only broken in recent years, other teams could offer inducements of their own and the playing field levelled out.
These days the Arsenal franchise have been dragged back into a pack of WSL mid–table battlers.