By Stuart Dick.
The Offside Rule (We Get It!) has spoken with the FA’s Director of Women’s Football Kelly Simmons in response to Stuart Dick’s article on the Women’s game which can be found here. Player contracts, club funding, league restructuring and the media coverage received by those leagues and clubs outside of the FA Women’s Super League were discussed.
With reports coming from several FA Women’s Premier League clubs claiming they have not been allowed to put players on contracts by the Football Association, Simmons stated this was not the case:
“There’s been a rule in place, ever since WSL came on board, which allows contracts for FA Women’s Premier League clubs.”
With the FA Women’s Premier League set to integrate with the tier four combination leagues, Simmons made us aware that this rule could change for next season:
“What is happening now is that representatives from the five leagues (in the restructure) are currently discussing the rules for the new FA Women’s Premier League.”
“As the FA Women’s Premier League is governed under a standard code of rule, the league would have to apply for special dispensation to allow contracts, the representatives looked at the issue, and not one FA Women’s Premier League player has been contracted in the last three years. Thus, they genuinely felt that contracts for Premier League players were not require, so in the first draft of the rules contracting players is not in.”
“We will go back and look at it; I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. At the next Women’s football board meeting we’ll have a look at what level of the game we’ll have contracts in.
“At the moment, FA Women’s Premier League clubs are allowed players on contracts, and going forward I can’t see why they won’t be, we just need to discuss with the board at what level we allow contracts at in terms of the tiers.”
We then discussed the funding situation in regards to the new league. It had been reported to myself that FA Women’s Premier League clubs would lose funding in the restructure, and that each club would receive a mere £1,250 per year from the FA. Simmons was quick to dispel these reports and explained the funding situation in regards to the new league set-up.
“It’s a red herring (the £1,250 per club figure,) the clubs did not get that anyway.”
“The clubs will not be worse off in the new league. We have ring-fenced the funding clubs get around travel to make sure that they are not worse off.”
“What people have done is take the figure that we have allocated for the new league management committee for their development grant, which is £90,000, and then divided that between all of the clubs on the assumption that the money is going to the clubs equally, and come out with this £1,250 figure.”
“It is a grant for the league for the new management committee, which has much more club representation on it, to use in terms of the development of the league. The clubs will have a greater say in the running of the league, and they can dictate how they want to invest that money.”
Next on the agenda was the league restructuring, why it was necessary to integrate the leagues and what effect does this have on the competition:
“The restructuring has been agreed by quite some time by the stakeholders, that’s the first important thing to say, and representatives from all of those leagues have worked really hard to get the plans in place.”
“Currently they are five individual leagues, some of them very small leagues, some of the combination leagues have only 12 teams, and it was felt it would be a stronger league if it was merged into one league at two levels of the game.”
“With the FA running the administration of the whole league, it means another level of Women’s Football will be run by the FA. We’ll be running four levels of the game instead of three.”
This now leaves FA Women’s Premier League representatives with two votes, where the Combination League representatives will have eight votes, but this should not affect the decisions made by the committee:
“Every single league in the country, clubs elect their management committee and it’s a democracy so obviously there are more combination league clubs as a whole collective, but they are individual leagues remember, so individually they wouldn’t be able to out vote the FA Women’s Premier League.”
Simmons insists this will not be an issue, and the league management committee will have FA Board member Michael Game and Chair of the Women’s Committee Sue Hough sitting on it, giving the league a voice straight to the top of the FA for the first time:
“I think the most important thing is with the new management committee it makes sure all of clubs have a voice straight in to both the women’s committee and the FA Board. We make sure the league is being run properly and fairly and the clubs have a voice straight to the main board of the FA for the first time.”
“I can’t see anything that combination leagues would try and outvote the Women’s Premier League on going forward.”
Promotion and Relegation to and from the FA Women’s Super League is another debate FA Women’s Premier League clubs are keen to have, and are currently in consultation with the FA. In our previous article, we suggested that promotion to the FA Women’s Super League had been blocked for 5 years, based on the FAWSL licenses given in 2013 up to 2018, but Simmons states this is not the case:
“I don’t know where you got that from (five year blocking of promotion), obviously we have given FAWSL clubs four year licenses, but we’ve always talked about potentially expanding the FAWSL over the next couple of years.”
“We’ve also said to the FA Women’s Premier League clubs that we will go back, do some work internally about how we can potentially link the two pyramids going forward, and we said we’ll go back to the clubs in January next year and have those discussions.”
So there are plans to potentially add to the FA Women’s Super League, and to integrate the two pyramids of women’s football into one, most likely over the summer months:
“We’ll make a decision reasonable soon about when we are ready to expand the WSL and we will also be talking to clubs over the next few months about how we link the two pyramids.”
Lastly, we discussed the poor coverage of the FA Women’s Premier League on the FA website; something that Simmons believes is due to lack of resources, but states this should improve going forward:
“Yes, it will be a lack of resources to write content.”
“We have just put in place a new women’s leagues and competitions unit headed by Katie Brazier, and she is putting her team in place and that will include more resources to run the new Women’s Premier League as well.”
“So one of the things the team will do is make sure we improve communications around the FA Women’s Premier League.”