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Belles keeper Wattam turns to crowdfunding and bank loan to save career

Doncaster Rovers Belles goalkeeper Georgia Wattam was forced into using crowdfunding and a four-figure bank loan to pay for career-saving surgery.

The 24-year-old suffered ankle and ligament damage in training, which required a private operation to help her play again as she faced a wait of up to 18 months with the NHS.

It prompted Wattam to launch a GoFundMepage which raised £3,200, before she took a bank loan - that needs to be paid back next year - to cover the rest of the £7,000 surgery cost.

Because Doncaster play in tier four of the women's pyramid, they get limited medical assistance for players and only clubs in the top two leagues receive full support.

"Within tier three, tier four, it is obviously something that's a bit of a worry," Wattam, who also works as a car garage service adviser, told Sky Sports News.

"The financial stability is not the same as it is in the Super League and the Championship.

"We're only covered for a certain amount of money through injuries. The amount of medical cover that we get in tier four to the Super League is different in comparison.

"So, it'd be nice just to get the same amount of cover that the professionals get."

After her surgery in February, Wattam aims to be back playing for the start of next season but admits the injury has taken a toll on her mental health.

"It's still a bit of a struggle," she added. "I've had my quiet days where I've just not had the TV on, or I've not really got changed because I don't really know what to do myself.

"Either I'm at work, or I'm at the gym or playing football. So, it's been a big change within my lifestyle just to sit and look at the same four walls rather than get out.

"So I'm just sat stuck, can't go anywhere. It has big effects within that kind of region, but I'm getting there."

Although the Belles looked to insure their players, the medical costs would have been too extortionate for the club.

In 2021 their captain Sophie Scargill also required the help of crowdfunding, where she raised £5,000 for knee surgery - which included a £3,000 donation from Gary Lineker.

It is because of this that Doncaster believes these situations are hampering the growth of women's football outside the top two divisions.

Belles CEO Russ Green has said in a statement: "The level we are currently at is grassroots football. We must run as an amateur operation and do so accordingly.

"We are in the fourth tier of the women's game but it feels a million miles away from the top two levels.

"While great progress has been made in the women's game in recent years, there is still a long, long way to go.

"Investment in facilities and coaching is all well and good but the players are the bedrock and the authorities need to protect them."

An FA spokesperson has said they are working with third and fourth-tier clubs on a set of minimum requirements for next season, which includes medical support for players.

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