Following Chelsea Ladies completing the recent transfers of Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann and Norway captain Maren Mjelde, Emily Magee looks at at how the FA WSL’s switch to a winter league could attract further overseas players.
With the switch to a winter league for the forthcoming WSL season, many have expressed concerns regarding future attendances and the possibility of women’s football falling down the pecking order in a fight for broadcasting rights with the plethora of other sports, who have a more substantial following.
However, it could turn out to be a broadly positive change in many other instances. For example, the FA WSL is now in sync with its European counterparts, as the likes of the German Frauen Bundesliga and the French Division 1 Feminine have all elected to play during the winter months as well.
Prior to this change, a summer league was a major fallback for England’s top team’s competing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. The Women’s Super League scheduling proved to be a major footfall for the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, who weren’t given the best preparations to face Europe’s best.
Considering the proposed changes, an increase in competitiveness in the WSL 1 will now bring England’s top tier in line with Europe’s heavyweights. In turn, the feasibility that a move to a winter season will attract top overseas talent will no doubt come into fruition.
As the league will now be played alongside the traditional footballing calendar every campaign, this will correlate to a more integrated programme to align with the broader women’s football pyramid.
The Spring Series, which will run from February to May, will also coincide with the UEFA Women’s Euro’s next summer. This will provide an ideal preparation for the league’s England internationals and their European counterparts, who will also be making the necessary steps for their trip to the Netherlands.
Chelsea have already brought in two impressive transfers since the season concluded, drawing the interest of Ramona Bachmann and Maren Mjelde.
The calibre of these additions to the London side not only proves how much of a draw the Women’s Super League has, but also the statement of intent from Chelsea manager Emma Hayes – after her side finished runners-up last season after surrendering their title to Manchester City.
The Blues began bolstering their squad barely weeks after the season was over, with Mjelde as their first signing. The Norway captain has over 100 caps for her country and brings a wealth of tournament experience; she led Toppserien side Avaldsnes IL to their first ever Women’s Champions League this year, as well as being a vital member of the squad to reach the semi-finals with FFC Turbine Potsdam in 2014.
Most recently, Chelsea have announced the signing of Swiss international Bachmann from VfL Wolfsburg. Despite a mixed season with Wolfsburg, the 25-year-old has consistently shone for her national team. With a string of fine tournament performances – including an impressive display at the 2015 Women’s World Cup – the forward has scored 42 goals in 76 appearances since her first cap in 2007 at just 16-years-old. Hayes believes Bachmann can revitalise her side, and will also set the league alight when it returns for the Spring Series in February.
The ambition of Women’s Super League clubs and the growth of the FA WSL as a whole began to spark the interest of other European stars last season.
Manchester City drew Sweden striker Kosovare Asllani to leave French giants Paris Saint-Germain for England in January, and it seems more quality players will follow the same path in the coming months.
Follow Emily on Twitter at @Egmagee