In the opening chapters of Gail J Newsham’s In a League of Their Own!, I found it mildly intriguing that Alfred Frankland so easily convinced some exceptional players to join the Dick, Kerr Ladies team and hired them at the factory. It crossed my mind that something seemed vaguely similar to the almost effortless compilation of American soccer stars by Dan Borislow for the magicJack team of the WPS around 2009-2011. It was a brief thought, though, because Borislow’s management of the team was sketchy, and it initially seemed that Frankland was an admiral figure that happened to play a part in the historic rise of women’s football in England. However, as I got further into the book, I realized all of the striking similarities between the two situations.
The idea of a parallelism between the two teams and their owners reoccurred to me while reading the segment that details the Dick, Kerr Ladies’ trip to the United States and all of the mischief surrounding David Brooks. At that point, I still had doubts in regards to Frankland’s involvement in the scheme because he publicly announced his surprise that the team would be facing only male opposition; later developments reveal information that imply Frankland might have been involved in the money-making plot all along. In my mind, the connection was cemented around page 145 when the Dick, Kerr players gave anecdotes in relation to the team’s name change. The quotes from Alice Norris and Elsie Yates discuss the timeline of Frankland’s wealth, and it seems to correlate pretty evenly with the team’s fame. In addition, the line from Alice Woods’ father that Frankland “had to be running the whole show” (p. 146), is eerily similar to Borislow and his dealings with the magicJack team. Borislow was focused on allotting special treatment and spending his money to manipulate players; Frankland was less generous, only paying the women the salaries that they were losing by missing work. However, both owners were more concerned with monetary issues than the prosperity of the team in the sense of soccer improvement. Frankland was keen on earning a profit for himself, and the book suggests that this wealth was coming from the money that the team raised for various charities. Along with this immoral ploy, the commotion around the name change and field dispute reveal an interesting power dynamic, reminiscent of the banning of magicJack in the WPS. In both situations, Frankland and Borislow had to deal with scrutiny from a higher authority figure and went to great lengths to avoid consequences that interfered with their control. Frankland moved the Dick, Kerr Ladies to another field and altered the team name while Borislow decided to continue running his team independent of the WPS. Because of the hectic nature of both falling outs, the owners each turned to players to deal with team proceedings. In the case of Alice Norris, she turned down Frankland’s request for her to take over as trainer, but Abby Wambach took Borislow up on the task of player coach.
Perhaps the saddest parallel between the two groups is the fact that Frankland and Borislow are still celebrated. Newsham’s book brushes over details of Frankland’s shady behavior and instead highlights how some players are grateful for the jobs that he was able to connect them with at Whittingham Hospital. In the same way, an article from ESPNW quotes Abby Wambach in her stance that in reality Dan Borislow helped her and the game of women’s soccer in a time of need. Meanwhile, his untraditional role and unethical behavior are almost never mentioned anymore. It is probably true that Frankland and Borislow assisted in launching monumental progress in women’s soccer in each of their situations, but is it right to think that contributions ever amount to enough to excuse such illicit actions?
Link to ESPNW Article on Dan Borislow and magicJack: