Just a week or so into the new Women’s Super League season the FA announced plans to change the structure of women’s football with a full-time league at the top. This renders standings this season effectively meaningless, with no relegation or promotion possible as clubs apply to be a part of this new league.
Last week I visited Yeovil Town Ladies. Yeovil are part-time club in WSL 1 and the club have just a matter of weeks to find £350,000 to meet the criteria set by the FA to join the new full-time league next season.
There are a number of criteria all clubs have to meet in their application for a licence, ranging from facilities to staff requirements. Club officials at Yeovil tell me they do actually meet pretty much all the criteria, except the financial requirements. They were informed via conference call just a few weeks ago that they have until 10 November to find the cash to keep them up. While Women’s Premier League clubs (the third tier and below) that are looking to leapfrog the leagues and join the new full-time setup, such as West Ham and Derby, have a much longer deadline of six months in which to submit their application.
The FA wants the new full-time WSL 1 and part-time WSL2 in place for the start of next season. I contacted a number of clubs for their thoughts, some of which said “no comment,” read into that what you will.
The criteria set by the FA that simply does not add up. There is no specific academy information set out. It seems crazy to submit an application to be part of a league which requires an academy but doesn’t detail how that academy will work. There is also no detail about how commercial and broadcast partnerships could work. Unbelievably, the current WSL clubs receive no money for playing in front of the cameras for a game live on TV. Can you imagine this happening in the Premier League?
There appears to be no financial fair play regulations. Furthermore, there is no requirement to have a media/communications officer. With more scrutiny of the women’s game than ever before – particularly given the media coverage of the FA’s handling of Mark Sampson and Eni Aluko – you would think that this is a must.
The WSL clubs all play in the Continental Cup, where competition where the clubs see no prize money. The aforementioned Yeovil had to travel to Brighton during the week to play an evening Cup match, and players did not get home until 3am with many working the next morning.
The Facebook group FA WSL Fans United has an open letter to Katie Brazier, the FA’s Head of Women’s Leagues and Competitions. This letter points out that really the only clubs that will be able to be a part of the new full time WSL will be those backed by men’s professional clubs. The intention of having a full-time professional league is correct, but the way it is being implemented is being seen as hugely unfair. It would be a fantastic achievement for there to be a full-time women’s league in England, but it needs to be done in the right way. One that includes every club, not just those with the money. The open letter also poses a controversial question; was the timing of this announcement to deflect attention away from the sacking of Mark Sampson? Individuals will draw their own conclusions until the FA answer this open letter. In total there are 19 intriguing questions in the letter and I am keeping a watchful eye to see if and when the FA respond.
I was shocked to learn all of the above. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport continue their investigation in to the FA’s governance in a few weeks. I sincerely hope their running of the women’s leagues will be considered. The FA made a huge mistake banning women from playing football for 50 years in 1921, their intentions of a full-time professional league may be good, but they must learn by previous mistakes, not to be hasty and not rush things through.
Follow Michelle on Twitter – @MichelleOwen7